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Kennedy High School students expand their horizons when their social studies teacher takes them to Greece and Italy

A local teacher has sparked the love of traveling in her students by taking them to the source of a lot of their history lessons.by: SUBMITTED - Amy Gonzalez and Hannah Kloft pose in front of the Coliseum in Rome during a spring break trip provided through John F. Kennedy High School social studies teacher Jessica Schmidtman.

Kennedy High School social studies teacher Jessica Schmidtman took three students to Greece and Italy over spring break, the second trip she’s provided to students. Last year, a group of six accompanied her to Paris, London and Madrid.

“I myself have traveled and loved it, and I wanted to get the kids involved,” Schmidtman explained.

The group, which included students Hannah Kloft, Amy Gonzalez and Jose Gandarilla, flew into Athens, where they stayed for two nights, then ventured to Delphi, where they took in the trip’s most memorable vistas: a 3,000-year-old Byzantine monastery surrounded by olive groves overlooking mountains and the Aegean Sea.

“My favorite part was probably Delphi because it was so beautiful and wasn’t what I expected,” Kloft said. “You see pictures of Rome and Athens and this is just not something you see every day. It’s breathtaking.”

The group took an overnight ferry to Italy, then a bus to Florence. They ended their tour in the Eternal City, Rome.

The only snafu on the trip was that the day they wby: SUBMITTED - Kennedy High School students and their social studies teacher visited Greece and Italy this spring break, including Florence, pictured here.ere scheduled to visit the Coliseum in Rome was when President Barack Obama happened to be doing the same, so it was shut down to the public.

“But we were able to be at the Vatican when they were setting up for a Mass that was going to be led by the pope,” Schmidtman added. “We weren’t able to go to that Mass, but it was interesting seeing what all went into the preparation.”

The trip was the first abroad for Kloft.

“It was a little bit of culture shock,” she admitted. “There are little things you wouldn’t think about, like how we tip at restaurants and they don’t.”

The students got to experience Greece and Italy from local guides.

“You have a full-time director with you the whole time,” Schmidtman said. “With the local guides, they’re able to include great historical events and to relate it to the kids, rather than just listing another date and place. It makes that connection.”

The students raise their own funds for the trip, which is offered through Education First Tours, so there is some fundraising, pop can collecting and saving up from summer jobs.

Because of the amount of time needed to raise money, Schmidtman will allow two years before heading abroad again.

She said she’s debating whether to take students on a tour that meanders from Germany to Venice or on a World War II trip starting at the D-Day beaches of France.

“This time, because there were only three, it forced the kids to meet the other kids in the (tour) group,” Schmidtman said, referencing EF Tours’ other school groups from Lebanon, Ore., and Tennessee.

“So they were not only meeting people from Europe, but also experiencing it alongside other people from America,” she said.

This trip was particularly interesting for Schmidtman since she planned the tour before she found out she was pregnant. Her baby came in early January, so she was still able to travel.

“It was pretty hard but I had committed to this before I knew I was pregnant,” she said, adding that her husband, who also teaches at Kennedy, stayed home with the baby.

Since Kloft is a junior, she won’t be able to take part in the next trip, but she said she is sure that traveling will be a big part of her life.

“I learned there’s a lot more to life than little Mount Angel,” she said. “If you expand your horizons and just think how long ago this existed, it’s humbling.”