It was set to be the apex of their young academic lives?”an unforgettable moment, holding a special place on their resumes, high school transcripts or as a rocking chair tale to their children.
As a result of their outstanding academic achievements and leadership potential, six students of John Hay Community Academy, 1018 N. Laramie, were chosen to represent the school and the state at the 2006 Junior Leadership Conference in Washington DC.
The seven-day trip would have begun for the students in early June, and would have involved mingling with other children from all over the country. The Hay students would’ve attended a special reception on Capitol Hill just for Jr. National Youth Leadership Counsel Scholars. Their DC stay included a trip to the historic Harper’s Ferry and a sleepover in the interactive Maryland Science Center.
But unfortunately, they won’t be participating in any of these activities. In fact, they won’t be going to the nation’s capital at all.
“I’m upset because I really wanted to go,” said fifth grader Rischard Franklin, who was selected to participate but couldn’t go.
“My mom was so proud of me when I told her I was invited to come, but not being able to go because of the money really hurts.”
A stipulation for going was that the students needed the required $1740 non-refundable fee to reserve their place on the trip. Securing the funding would have assured the student’s trip, but $1700 was a hefty some of money most parents couldn’t afford.
“I’ve only been to Mississippi before so I was really looking forward to going to DC,” said sixth-grader Quinton Henry. “I want to get into Whitney Young and this trip would have given me something really special to have on my transcript.”
Last fall, Hay School teacher Josie Whiting received a letter in the mail asking for recommendations from her of the fifth and sixth grade students most deserving of the trip. She decided to share the opportunity with other teachers and their students.
She and the other teachers got their recommendations in by the November deadline. The acceptance letters arrived at the school in April. The teachers handed out the letters to the students who were understandably proud.
“My mother was proud of me for being chosen,” said fifth grader Mark Clay. “She was concerned though about the money and the fact that I was going alone without a family member.”
As it turned out, the safety issue was as much of a factor as the money. Though the children would be with chaperones assigned by the program, a few parents were still uneasy about sending their children to Washington DC without them.
“For me it wasn’t really the money,” said fifth grader Anthony Reed, “My mother was scared of the idea of me going to Washington without her.”
There was a stipulation in the letter stating that children could only come alone, and that adult chaperones would be present. That, however, failed to ease some parents’ concerns.
“My mother was questioning the chaperone rule too,” said Clay. “She felt that me being gone so long would cause her to worry, but I believe she would have let me go if the money wasn’t such a factor.”
There was also an issue with the timing of the application letters. Because the students received their letters in April, they would have been hard pressed to make the May 5, confirmation deadline.
“Perhaps, [the committee] was sending off so many letters that they ran behind schedule and some came later,” Whiting suggested.
A disappointed Beryl Guy, the school’s principal, said this would have been a wonderful opportunity for the children.
“I want to encourage the students to write letters to the JNYLC Committee before the semester is over, and tell them how they feel about not being able to attend,” she said. “Perhaps next year we may have a fundraiser as well. I want to make sure that this is not repeated in the future.”