Shutdown hits Nampa High students' trip

The government freeze casts a pall on plans as a Nampa High group heads to Washington and New York, but it can't put a damper on the excitement

jsowell@idahostatesman.comOctober 2, 2013 

More than a year ago, when a group of Nampa High School students began planning a trip to the nation's capital, they dreamed about the historic and cultural gems they would see.

The Washington and Lincoln memorials. The Capitol. The Smithsonian Institution. The Library of Congress.

"Those are all the things we've been talking about," said Camille Levi, a Nampa High communications and business instructor.

The 10 students and two teachers left Idaho for the East Coast before dawn Wednesday. But they don't know how many of those sites they will be able to visit, if any, after the federal government partially shut down this week.

Along with furloughing employees and blocking access to some federal services, the shutdown has affected thousands of people looking to visit Washington institutions, national parks, and Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management campgrounds across the nation.

"It's a bummer the government shut down, but I think we're still going to have a good time," said senior Morgan Buchanan, 17, after checking in at the United Airlines counter at the Boise Airport.

Buchanan had looked forward to visiting the Smithsonian "because I've always wanted to try astronaut food." Founded in 1846, its 19 museums and nine research facilities make it the world's largest museum and research complex.

For senior Erica Aldous, 17, the group's initial flight, from Boise to Denver, was her first time on an airplane.

Aldous panicked a little as she and the other students stood in line to have their identifications and airline tickets checked - she realized she had left her driver's license at home.

"You're serious?" Nampa High history teacher Nicole Dodge asked.

"I wouldn't be telling you this if I wasn't," Aldous said.

Luckily, the TSA officer let her pass because she's younger than 18 and because Dodge and Levi were acting as chaperones.

Earlier, Aldous said she was thrilled to fly and to see Washington and New York City.

"I'm excited, but it's disappointing the government is shut down, so we won't be able to do a lot of the things we had planned," she said.

Senior Jonathan Overstreet, 17, said he loves to travel and has been looking forward to seeing the prominent U.S. cities.

"It's kind of sad that we won't get to see the Smithsonian or the Lincoln Memorial. Still, we'll get to see other things and experience the trip," he said.

Junior Mason Dodge, 16, said he looked forward to having fun and being with his friends on the trip.

"I hope Congress figures it out before we get there. This is what the whole trip was for," said Dodge, Nicole's son.

His mother told the students that she made numerous calls Tuesday to the group's travel coordinator. The company was working to provide alternative attractions to see in Washington if the shutdown continues.

"I don't want that. I'm a history teacher and that's what I want the kids to see. They need to not only see the Capitol but what's inside the Capitol," Nicole Dodge said.

The students raised about $2,000 apiece to pay for the trip, working concessions and serving food at events at the Idaho Center in Nampa. They'll be gone for a week.

"They've been working on this so long. I told her to make it her own," said Sue Pauls, Buchanan's mother. "We believe you can never learn too much."

Levi and Dodge said they want to show their students the possibilities that exist in the larger world, and to give them a new perspective on their place in it.

"There's a lot of historical significance in Washington," Levi said. "It's a place they've only read about."

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John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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