The class of 2023 will be the first to take flight
By Keira Kilkenny, Staff Writer
SANFORD, Maine – In partnership with Massachusetts-based company Education First, Sanford High School seniors will be given the opportunity to travel abroad, starting with the class of 2023.
Kelly Foley, a teacher at Sanford High School and the trip organizer, proposed the idea for this abroad program to the School Board on Oct. 18. Foley originally started planning this trip back in 2019 with plans to take the Class of 2022 but was pushed back a year due to the pandemic.
Foley’s been wanting to start a travel abroad program for students since becoming a teacher because she believes that traveling is very beneficial for young minds and expands horizons.
“Through this program, I can provide once-in-a-lifetime abroad opportunities for kids while they’re still in high school,” Foley stated.
According to their website, Education First (EF), a travel education company, has been working with schools for more than 50 years. They specialize in educational travel, academic degree programs, and cultural exchange, and their goal is “to give confidence and freedom to people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds.”
EF has also worked with other well-known schools in Maine, such as Bonny Eagle Middle School and Scarborough High School, which gave Foley confidence that this program could be successful.
“Through this program, I can provide once-in-a-lifetime abroad opportunities for kids while they’re still in high school.”Kelly Foley, SHS Abroad Advisor and Tour Director
EF offers automatic payment plans to help make the cost of this trip more manageable for students and families. Included in the cost are nearly all expenses, including round-trip airfare, hotels, on-tour transportation, excursion costs, as well as breakfast and dinner.
Foley plans to have many fundraising opportunities to further help students afford the trip and felt confident in EF’s ability to help her in the planning and execution process.
“I felt like [EF’s] programs were the most organized and teachers already have a lot on their plate,” Foley stated, “so the fact that I get paired with someone on their end to help me plan everything takes a lot of stress off of planning.”
Foley stressed that one of the major reasons she chose EF was because of their safety and insurance policies, which include the COVID Peace of Mind and the COVID Care Promise. These policies ensure that no matter what happens, the trip and anyone attending will be protected. For example, if COVID-19 restrictions interfere with their travel dates, the trip can be rescheduled.
This first destination, available to the Class of 2023, is Italy. It’s going to be nine days over February vacation 2023 so no classes are missed. The trip itinerary includes visits to Venice, Florence, Assisi and Rome. They plan to visit many historical sites such as the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum and the Basilica of St. Francis. Optional excursions also include the ruins of Pompeii and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Students will be accompanied by SHS teacher-chaperones and certified Education First tour guide(s). For every six students, there will automatically be a chaperone, and students will be with their chaperones for the entirety of the trip.
A junior at Sanford High School, who wished not to be named, said, “I think it’s a good opportunity because it lets us experience something different than we’re used to, and for some students this may be their only chance to travel.”
According to thelearningadventure.com, abroad school trips expose kids to different cultures and experiences, giving them a “wider understanding of the world and appreciation for other peoples’ ways of life.” This is the value Foley hopes to bring to students in Sanford.
Azline Maurals, a junior at Sanford High School said, “Experiencing new things such as traveling can speak to a person by witnessing a different way of life and that can really change a person. You might fall in love with a specific place because you took that risk and you traveled.”
Foley hopes to maintain this program for as long as she can, because she believes it’s important for students to have an opportunity to travel. She suggested that maybe someday she’ll eventually have to, “pass the baton onto a younger teacher” to keep the tradition alive.
Foley has not yet determined the destination for the Class of 2024, but plans to reveal it September of their junior year.