Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 10, 2010

Village students travel to D.C. -- with help from some benefactors

Donations, pizza and a limo ride send them on their way

by Glenn Wohltmann

The school has been doing this trip for years, but the 12 students from Village High who spent last week in Washington, D.C. traveled in style, courtesy of some local businesses.

Ann Crawford, who teaches history and civics at Village, said she gave the kids who wanted to go the same kind of letter she's been sending out for years.

"The cost of the trip is $1,788," Crawford said. "I send out a letter to the community. I tell them to give it out at their parents' place of work."

This year things started to snowball when Christian Ghera gave the letter to his mom, Jennifer, who works at the Pleasanton Hilton. General Manager Kevin Goble contributed $300, then asked Crawford how the kids get to the airport.

"When you're dealing with students," she told him, "you have problems that take place."

Crawford explained that she's had a student with a flat tire, kids who went to the wrong airport or to arrivals instead of departures, and that one year recently, a student misplaced his shoes at the hotel in Washington and they missed their flight home.

"He's laughing and he says, 'How about if I call Bill at Black Tie Limo?'" she said. "I was flabbergasted."

Goble then took his offer a step further, offering to have the students arrive an hour early for pizza -- a little extra incentive to get the kids there on time.

"It was an act of supreme generosity," Crawford said.

So Black Tie Limo brought them to the airport Friday morning and picked them up Saturday (without another misplaced shoe incident), so the class traveled with class.

"It was pretty fun," said 17-year-old Jordon Goodman, a senior at Village. "It was like a party bus. Everyone was pretty tired but was excited to go on the trip."

While at the nation's capital, they received a crash course in government.

The 12 students on the trip had a Capitol Hill tour arranged through Congressman Jerry McNerney's office and visited Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Holocaust Museum.

They also saw the Supreme Court, which was in session, although they missed an upcoming ruling in a California case that could affect them. In that case, video game manufacturers are taking on a law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that banned the sale of violent video games to minors.

The students also spent the night in Colonial Williamsburg, toured all the major monuments, and attended workshops.

"We're in a group of like 25 kids. We have discussions about our current government," Goodman said midway through the trip, "and learn as much as we can. It's more specific, like what's going on the in the news right now."

They also got a chance to see how the other half lives, rooming with one Village student and two from another state. This year, students from Alaska, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana and Utah participated, along with a school from Puerto Rico.

In the past, Crawford said that mix has made for interesting interactions as Village students -- some with piercings, tattoos and unusual hair colors -- met up with their more staid counterparts from other places in the country. She said that's one of the goals of Close Up, the organization that puts the trips together.

Crawford said she's accompanied students for the last few years and hopes they get as much out of it as she does.

"I just have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the trip, and if I can pass that along to the kids, that's great," she said.

She was excited about the local businesses sending off the kids in style.

"I've been here since Day 1, and this is most generous gift ever received," Crawford said.

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