Superintendent Lynn Torres
Snow in Central Park, there’s nothing quite like it. To see the wonder on the faces of our GT students, some of which have never been on an airplane before, when they see the skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty is a magical experience. For fourteen years, the sophomore GT class at Lufkin High School, has made the trek to the epicenter of the world to have a firsthand experience of art and history in preparation for the art history AP test and the world history AP test. The trip is graciously made possible every year with substantial financial backing from the E.L. Kurth Jr. Foundation and is a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for the students.
The group of 37 students and 7 adults met at 3:00 a.m. at Lufkin High School in preparation for the three and a half hour flight to New York out of Houston Intercontinental Airport. The students were eager to hit the ground running. One of my favorite moments that day was when the students were at the Majestic Delicatessen. It’s a diner a block off of Broadway that is known for their pastrami and signature specialty sandwiches. There was a woman in the restaurant that said she frequents the diner often and had never seen a student group who was so respectful and well-behaved as our group. I must admit, her comment just solidified what so many of us already know, our kids are the best.
When we got to the museums to do some art study, we had the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) all to ourselves. We were the first school tour of the day, and made our way around the museum with plenty of room to spread out and learn. This gave our group the opportunity to study the art up close and in a personal way. They became the “experts” in the museum discussing the paintings, their meanings, the artist, and the periods of art. Other visitors have been known to stop and listen to their explanations. We completed our art experience at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Another museum we visit while in New York, is the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It’s fascinating to see the museum through the eyes of students who were not even born when the tragedy happened. Even though they were not alive at that time, the world has changed significantly for them because of that one event.
In the J.P. Morgan Library, the students were able to see the J.R.R. Tolkien exhibit. This exhibition is the most extensive public display of Tolkien and Middle Earth material. It hardly ever leaves London, and it happened to be in New York to coincide with our trip. The inventive tales of hobbits and elves, dwarves and wizards have delighted millions of students and readers for generations.
Riding the subway is always an adventure as well. The students get a true picture of how to maneuver the city by riding the rails. We enjoyed the sights and the people we met along the way. Of course, no trip to New York is complete without visiting Central Park. The students had a special treat because it was snowing. They had snowball fights and made snow angels, what a wonderful way to complete our trip!
We also had the unique experience to board our plane to come home amid some swirling weather, a super storm with a name. We spent an hour on the plane hoping to be able to take off. After our plane was completely de-iced, we were finally able to take off. Only later did we learn that the remaining flights to Houston that evening were grounded due to weather.
Even though the AP test won’t have questions about the best street vendor for a hot dog or the best shop in Chinatown, this trip is a once in a lifetime experience for these students. Not to mention, the outcome for our students on the AP test for these two courses exceeds the global mean average score. Seeing what New York has to offer firsthand, makes a huge difference in the lives of these students. It was a trip filled with many firsts and lots of memories that we will not soon forget.