On the Road Again: Student Travel to D.C. & Pittsburgh

They made sure of every detail before our arrival.  They carefully planned how we would be greeted.  Some, quite literally, even had tears in their eyes upon our arrival.  From the managers to the staff, vendors across destinations welcoming our student groups this Spring made certain they showed the importance of our visit.  At one particular hotel the three managers lined up to greet our student group upon their arrival; at one restaurant the staff welcomed us with actual tears in their eyes; at one city our group was greeted with gifts and a personal visit from a city representative; at all of our destinations we were welcomed by grateful people after a trying season.  

That is right.  Tours are happening! Trips are happening!  Educational student travel is happening!  This Spring we have already had the privilege of welcoming students, teachers and parents on programs to both usual destinations and new attractions.  In Washington, D.C., our students have had the privilege of touring Arlington National Cemetery, experiencing the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, taking in the impressive view of our nation’s capital from the Air Force Memorial, and everything in between.  There is a reason why millions of travelers visit the “city beautiful” every year, and why so many teachers count the trip with their students as the highlight of their year.  

One student group from the great state of Montana had the opportunity of starting their tour in a mainstay, our nation’s capital, and ending in one of America’s best-kept secrets, Pittsburgh, PA.  To use the words of the long-time and beloved group leader who was accustomed to a Washington, D.C. and New York City tour:  “It did not disappoint!”  Not only were the students able to tour iconic destinations like Arlington, the Tidal Basin, Capitol Hill, to name a few, but also to be some of the first student groups to experience the new and inspiring Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial and the equally new and impressive Native American Veteran’s Memorial (check out our recent blog posts about these!). On the drive to Pittsburgh, PA the group had the distinct honor of visiting the Flight 93 Memorial outside of Shanksville, PA.  Given its location, of the 3 site-specific 9/11 memorials, it’s the least visited but no less impactful.  It’s a powerful landscape memorial, and it was a privilege for those students and teachers to visit it.   

As if that were not enough, the truly great city of Pittsburgh welcomed us with royal treatment.  From the welcome gifts, to the personal visit of the CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH, to the vibrant sites and activities, the city endeared itself to all our travelers.  The tour gave students and teachers the opportunity to be transported – literally! – on a historic funicular for a stunningly beautiful view of the three rivers city.  It gave them the chance to experience outstanding museums like the Heinz History Center.  It gave them a chance to experience history in new ways at the Carrie Blast Furnace, complete with the opportunity of an actual metal pour!  It even gave them the chance to experience a Pittsburgh cultural institution and classic American theme-park:  Kennywood.  From the wood roller-coasters to the potato patch fries, Kennywood produces smiles and memories.  Taken together, Pittsburgh proves to be a student-friendly, history-rich, culturally-rife city and worthy of all student travel.  

As anyone who has visited iconic destinations can attest, the monuments, memorials, museums and great buildings are naturally inspirational, even if one doesn’t understand their importance.  But a tour of such sites?  Well, that is when destinations – and history – truly come alive.  To see, once again, the awed faces of middle school students at the stories of courage and sacrifice at Arlington National Cemetery or to watch them gain increased understanding at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial or to simply witness their unbridled joy while enjoying a classic american theme park in this all-American city, helps us all to realize, once again, the reason we do this.  Whether through grand connections that change the course of a student’s life or through the simple bonding with their friends while traveling, tours this Spring have solidified the knowledge that educational travel builds bridges and changes lives.

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