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Eighth-graders take in the Big Apple, nations capital

Students visited Times Square, Washington Monument
by: Contributed photo Students from throughout the Gresham-Barlow School District pose in front of the White House last month. The students were on a privately sponsored trip organized by Tim Tetz, a teacher at Gordon Russell Middle School, and saw numerous sites, including Times Square in New York City and the Washington Monument.

From Broadway to the Beltway, a group of students from the Gresham-Barlow School District can now say they've seen it all.

Several young teenagers from throughout the district participated in the weeklong trip last month to New York City, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

This was the 17th such trip organized by Tim Tetz, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Gordon Russell Middle School, and it included a Baltimore Orioles baseball game as well as a visit to the Pamplin Civil War Park in Petersburg, Va.

'I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about the country,' says Maggie Gebhardt, 14, who went to Gordon Russell and will attend Barlow High this fall.

She noted the group started off their trip in New York City, which was in the middle of a humid heat wave.

'When you walked outside, you felt like you needed a shower again,' she says.

She particularly enjoyed the group's trip to Busch Gardens in Virginia.

'We rode a lot of roller coasters,' she says with a chuckle.

But there were also more serious moments, such as when the group visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington. The monument lists the names of all U.S. service personnel known to have perished in the conflict or still listed as missing in action.

'I didn't realize how many people had died in the Vietnam War and how traumatic it was,' Gebhardt says.

And learning that kind of history is one of the trip's benefits, according to Scott Stuhl, who teaches with Tetz at Gordon Russell, and went on the journey as well.

'The students made connections between those fighting for our freedom, who are only a few years older then they are, and what this means to them,' he says, adding: 'Some students actually had brothers involved and others had grandparents (in) the Vietnam War.'

Father, son

One of the other adult chaperones was Tony Gerton, whose son, Damon, 14, just finished up at Dexter McCarty Middle School and is a Gresham High freshman.

'I have never been to Washington, D.C.,' Gerton says, noting he wanted to explore the nation's origins. 'I thought it was important for my son to be involved as well.'

Gerton says he found the group's visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington interesting because his grandfathers served in the conflict.

'That was very emotional for me,' Gerton says.

Meanwhile, his son, Damon, says he enjoyed the architecture in Washington, which was 'almost unreal.'

He adds being in New York City's Times Square was also visually arresting.

'It's like I'm almost in a movie,' he says. 'You don't see this in everyday life, everyone moving around you and everything just shining around you.'

Great White Way

Emma Green, 14, who attended Russell and is a Barlow freshman, says the trip was her first time outside the Northwest.

'I really liked Washington, D.C., because I like learning, and I thought it was really cool to see the White House and the Capitol and see where our president lives.'

Like Damon Gerton, she was awed by Times Square, but it was the group's trip to see the musical 'Billy Elliot' on Broadway that made her heart soar. The musical tells the tale of a British boy who eschews boxing lessons to learn how to dance.

Green says she comes from an 'artsy' family and plans to sing in the Barlow chorus, so 'Elliot' was right up her alley.

'I liked the dancing actually because I don't know that many people who do ballet,' Green says, adding she found the lead actor entrancing.

'He looked like he was my age or probably younger,' she says. 'He was really good for somebody my age.'

And throughout the trip, the students behaved all right for youngsters, according to Tony Gerton.

'Other than trying to corral a bunch of kittens, so to speak, they did phenomenally well,' he says with a chuckle.

Trip facts

• For more information on the annual East Coast trip for Gresham-area students, call Tim Tetz at 503-799-2301. Readers should note this is not a school sponsored event, but a privately organized tour.