Organizing a class trip abroad has been a cause of major frustration for Gardiner Area High School Latin teacher Richard Reutershan, front left. Some of the students planning to go on the trip to Italy include Peri Jermyn, top left, Helen Dow, Lauren Slade, Matt Clark, Amee Tario and Anastasia Zajchowski, seated.
GARDINER — Organizing a class trip abroad has been a cause of major frustration for Latin teacher Richard Reutershan.
In this tough economic climate, Reutershan has been faced with the monumental task of raising money to send the Gardiner High School Latin Club to Italy in 2013. Nine students have signed up for the 10-night package deal with airfare.
He said fundraising efforts have hit a wall since the economic downturn of recent years and prices on everything from fuel to groceries and airfare just keep climbing.
“It’s so hard to raise money today with the economy, and the trip is so expensive,” Reutershan said. “The cost a decade ago was about half of today’s price of $3,800 for the original eight (students) who signed up. The price went up on October 15 to $4,100. This price is based on 12 paying customers. We are three short of that number.”
Those three will have to pay $4,100, he said.
Airline fees have skyrocketed, and “around the world our dollar isn’t worth as much — that’s another problem,” he said.
He said his group tries to take $10,000 with them on the trips since they need to pay admittance fees everywhere they go.
The burden is increasingly falling to students and their families, school officials say.
Don Reiter, principal of Waterville Senior High School, said there’s not as much money in the budget as there used to be to help student groups with traveling expenses.
“We used to be able to give more; we still may contribute, but it’s less than it was,” Reiter said. “If a group is going to the science museum in Boston I might be able to support them with two-hundred bucks, but not the thousand or more we used to be able to do. It now depends on fundraising, studens paying their own way and booster groups.”
Student exchanges between Hall-Dale High School and Aomori Prefecture, Maine’s sister state in Japan, have been going on since 1997.
Steve Lavoie, principle at Hall-Dale High middle and high school in Farmingdale, said his staff will be taking a group of students to Aomori in July.
“It’s an expensive trip for the kids and we don’t have the funds anymore to help,” Lavoie said. “The ability to go rests on the kids and their families and that’s a significant barrier.”
Lavoie said the district used to get money from the federal government that could be used for field trips and students traveling abroad, but those funds have dried up.
“And asking businesses to consider sponsoring a student, I don’t have scholarship money to throw that way any longer,” he said. “The overall cost of trips wasn’t always as high. The fuel charges and airport taxes and other costs have gone up, and with this economy, folks are hurting.”
Kimberly Silsby, assistant principal at Cony High School, said the Augusta school district doesn’t contribute any money to student trips.
“Usually it’s the student along with whatever fundraiser they can do,” Silsby said. “We recently had a group go to Guatemala, and next year students are going to Quebec, and there’s a trip to Italy and France. That’s probably going to be a hard one to raise funds for.”
Daryl Ortiz-Mashke, a Gardiner parent helping with the Gardiner Latin Club fundraiser, said families have less disposable income to spend, but also more organizations are asking for handouts. Groups like the music boosters and Little League, with large numbers of supporters, dominate certain types of fundraisers, she said.
“We’re a smaller group, so we’re at their mercy,” Ortiz-Mashke said. “It seems like every other organization has a monopoly on anything we want to do. But, largely, it has a lot to do with the economy. It’s hard for people to give generously anymore.”
Reutershan brainstormed with students and chaperones two weeks ago and fundraising ideas they came up with include a benefit dinner at the Red Barn in Augusta, an Italian supper at the school, Mother’s Day flower sales, car wash at William’s Oil Company in Gardiner, selling ice cream at the Whatever Weekend event in June, selling Florida grapefruit and oranges next fall and a benefit concert.
They also plan to send notes to business people in the school district requesting donations.
“We have been somewhat successful doing this in the past,” he said. “And we are also selling refreshments at some basketball tournaments. The community could help us out the next 12 months by donating their bottles to the Latin Club.”
‘A really big thing’
Anastasia Zajchowski, 17, a third-year Latin student at Gardiner High School and member of the Latin Club, said fundraising has been a slow process. Her parents put a deposit down on her trip and signed on for the monthly payment option.
The monthly payments vary depending on what each parent paid as a deposit. On average they are around $250 per month per child.
“For a lot of kids, this is a really big thing,” Anastasia said. “For some kids, it’s their first time going out of the country. Personally, for me, I’ve always wanted to go to Italy because I love the history and culture there, which actually inspired me to take Latin in high school.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Pompeii the most. It’s a snapshot of the daily lives of these people and it’s just frozen in time. You get a clear picture back in history, which is amazing to me.”
Her classmate, Mitchell Chesley, 17, said it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that he wouldn’t want to miss. Mitchell and his classmates will spend a day visiting ancient Roman ruins, will climb Mount Vesuvius, take a hydrofoil to the island of Capri and eat lunch on top of the island’s Mount Solaris.
“I’ll probably never get to do it again, so I might as well go,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be my senior year.”
Mechele Cooper — 621-5663
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