Help West Seattle High School students: Adopt a traveler!

November 21, 2007 10:30 am
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 |   How to help | West Seattle news | West Seattle schools

We were lucky to grow up with some opportunities to travel, around the U.S. as well as to a few other countries. Nothing too fancy, but still — as you know if you have been able to travel — it changes your perspective on your own slice of the world, in so many ways, that carry on throughout your life and enhance your ability to “think global/act local,” among other benefits. With that preface, here’s a chance to help some West Seattle teenagers gain that perspective as they prepare for the journey into adulthood: At West Seattle High School, the Travel Club is looking for partners and supporters to help make sure everyone who wants to join a 10-day student trip to Italy and Greece next spring can go. A nicely written press release appeared in the WSB inbox – so we’re sharing that, and the information that follows it about how you can help, including fundraising events that are just a few weeks away:

Press release as sent by Amber Campbell @ Do Communications:

When West Seattle High School (WSHS) World History Teacher and Travel Club Advisor Patrice De La Ossa organized a parent information meeting earlier this month to discuss a potential 10-day student trip to Italy and Greece during spring break 2008, she didn’t expect much of a turnout on a Saturday afternoon.

In fact, the meeting room she’d organized had just a dozen chairs set up. And it looked bleak when the clock struck 4 pm and only three lonely parents sat in the audience. But by 4:10 pm it was standing room only, and that was after an additional 30 chairs had been pulled out of a nearby closet. By 4:15 pm more than 60 people had crammed into the room in the basement of the West Seattle library.

“I knew the students were interested,” said De La Ossa, who took another student group to Italy in 2001. “The trip is a great opportunity to gain an appreciation for history and better understand the world in which we live. But I was pleasantly surprised by the number of families who took the time to come out, learn about the program and consider the opportunity.”

Indeed, the opportunity is a good one – the chance of a lifetime for some.

“Traveling abroad brings history to life, helps students gain an insightful understanding of the world, and provides them with the experiences necessary to be good global citizens who participate better in the world,” added De La Ossa.

It’s also expensive – about $3,000 per student expensive. And while some families have the means to pay the entire fee; many do not.

Most public school travel abroad programs are available only to those students whose family’s can afford the entire cost, but De La Ossa didn’t like the idea that there would be interested and capable students unable to take advantage of this life changing educational experience simply because they couldn’t afford the full cost – a travesty all too common in public schools throughout Seattle and the entire United States.

So, like she encourages her students to do every day, De La Ossa started thinking creatively – approaching the challenge of raising a large amount of money in a short amount of time in new and creative ways.

“It occurred to me that if local individuals, businesses and organizations were willing to support politicians and assorted arts organizations, they must be willing to help these kids shed their naivete and ethnocentricity by traveling abroad, studying other cultures and bringing their findings back to the community in a thoughtful and engaging manner,” she said.

The parents that packed the library meeting room, many with severe reservations about the cost, were nonetheless intrigued by the idea of the community coming together in a public-private partnership to help students achieve success – an idea catching on across the country as companies like Microsoft, Boeing and others both large and small continue to offer support to public education and other organizations devoted to helping young people thrive.

“West Seattle High School is a school that believes in partnerships,” said Principal Bruce Bivens. “We cannot do this work alone. We need support and resources that align our efforts and expertise from the corporate board, to the school board and onto the chalkboard, for student success. We must establish and promote extended learning opportunities for ALL learners to have experiences outside the walls of the schoolhouse. Traveling with peers abroad can be life changing, leaving indelible impressions that forever shape a young persons life. Many times I see our young people return from these adventures with a new sense of self, hope, and determination. Cost of travel is a significant barrier for many of our young people and their families in today’s public school arena. We must envision the community and corporate partnerships as a paramount duty of long-term investment and advocacy into shaping our local learners of today into our global leaders of tomorrow.”

Midway through the meeting, it was clear that a we-can-do-anything-together attitude had permeated the room. When organizers emphasized that students not maintaining a C-average or higher would not travel – under any circumstances, one parent spoke up saying that if the group could help raise the money to send the kids abroad they could darn sure help the kids keep their grades up as well.

De La Ossa said “the families that attended the meeting were inspiring in their willingness to combine their efforts, get their friends, family and employers involved and generally do whatever it takes to help not just their own kids – but others as well. The sense of community alone is worth the effort.”

So, you’re asking, how can you help? Several ways:

-Student travelers who need $ help are selling individual and business sponsorships. For more info, check out the flyer and letter that are being distributed to local businesses.

-You can e-mail the school staffers who are heading up the effort: WSHS World History Teacher and Travel Club Advisor Patrice DeLaOssa ( and Fundraising Manager Teresa Machmiller (

-You can shop at the fundraising Holiday Rummage Sale at West Seattle HS on December 8th, 9 am-2 pm (donations of “new or gently used items” for the sale are also being accepted – contact the aforementioned school staffers)

-You can join in “Night Out in West Seattle,” 6-10 pm December 15th, with a percentage of proceeds from participating restaurants benefiting the Italy/Greece trip (awaiting list of participating restaurants; we’ll post an update when that comes in)

Both of those events are now listed on our WSB Events page (with dozens of other events stretching on into the first few months of ’08). Good luck, WSHS travelers — hope to see you blogging or at least sending digital pix during your trip!

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