By Val Simon
Each year, almost as a rite of passage into high school, eighth grade students at Marco Island Charter Middle School are given the chance to go on a whirlwind trip to Washington, DC. This began four years ago under teacher Joe Jarrett who organized the trip for a school two years prior to joining MICMS. Mr. Jarrett is the Social Studies teacher and golfing coach. When asked what Mr. Jarrett has learned over the past six trips he answered, “The biggest thing that I have learned, when planning our trip, is to: plan for the worse and hope for the best, prepare the students for ALL situations, keep the students on the go/ wear them out, and know that there will ALWAYS be drama! No matter how well things are going, when you have a group together for seven days, someone is going to get on someone else’s nerves… You just have to tell them to get past it and not to let it ruin their trip. I have made a lot of contacts in doing this that helps us out each year.”
Students interested in the trip join the travel club in the beginning of the school year. They have to help raise funds through car washes and hot dog sales. Student participation of at least 50% is mandatory to be a member of the club. In addition, students have to rack up a number of volunteer hours as a prerequisite and besides maintaining their grades, too many trips to detention or too many ‘referrals’ to the school office can cancel their eligibility. If a family is economically challenged, scholarship funds provide assistance. The local Kiwanis Club provides some funding as well.
Parents may wonder why a teacher would go above and beyond to provide an opportunity like this and some parents may wonder WHO could keep a large group of young teenagers under control during such an adventure? Mr. Joe Jarrett would be just the person! His military background fit the bill perfectly; he was a Survival Instructor in the Air Force and a Search and Rescue Team Member! He trained selected Air Crew members in how to live off the land, evade the enemy (if they were shot down or crash landed), and resist interrogation if they werecaptured. His last assignment was with the 1st SRS (Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron) where he was the Survival Instructor for all the U2 and SR 71 pilots. He was Jump qualified and EMT certified. The children could not have been in more capable hands!
Forty nine students and eleven chaperones embarked on the trip this year. My daughter Jessica was among them. Below are her comments, photos and journal. Thank you Mr. Jarrett and chaperones, for providing this opportunity to my daughter!
My trip to D.C.
by Jessica Simon
Traveling to D.C. was a life changing experience. Never again will I get to go on a trip with all of my friends to somewhere with so much to offer. D.C. was even better than I expected but there were some let downs; the Wax museum was much smaller than we all expected. I for one anticipated many more celebrities and more wax figures. Another let down was the Capital. Our guides gave us little information and they just moved us in and then right out. Nevertheless, there was a lot more that made our time in Washington, D.C. amazing. One of my favorite memorials was the Vietnam Memorial. The way it was designed; one side points to the Lincoln Memorial and the other side points toward the Washington Monument. Every person’s name engraved from start to finish; the quiet and calm area it is located in pulls it all together. Another one of my favorites was the Museum of Natural History; it was FILLED with fossils, bones, animals, and so much information. It was anything but a boring museum, always finding something hands on to do. While on the trip we weren’t in cliques anymore, it was like the 8th grade had turned into a whole; we were all like family. Everyone was hanging out, laughing together, and just making the best out of the experience. But we all couldn’t do this without Mr. Jarrett. He was always right with us laughing and having a great time. He watched out for us and made sure we were with him and safe. We couldn’t have done any of this without him, and we thank him so much for spending his time doing this for us! D.C. was one of the most enjoyable trips I have taken. It will definitely always be remembered by everyone who went along.