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Pioneer students plan trip to Peru ... with a purpose

NORTHFIELD — If all goes according to plan, 12 Pioneer Valley Regional School students, two teacher chaperones and an expedition leader will touch down in Lima, Peru in late July.

“It’s going to be part community service and part culture exchange,” said Samantha Gorzocoski, a Northfield sophomore. “It’s also a chance to get out and face the world.”

The three-week trip will cost about $7,000 per person, and Gorzocoski and her classmates have been raising money ever since they heard about the opportunity about two years ago.

“We’ve had tag sales, sold seat cushions (for school sporting events), had a calendar raffle and sold pizza,” she said. They’ll also be selling Hillside Pizza’s take-and-bake pies just before the Superbowl, and more seat cushions during high school basketball season.

Her parents have mixed emotions about sending their daughter to a faraway land.

“My mom seems nervous about me going to another country,” said Gorzocoski. “My dad is a little jealous; he’s always wanted to go to Peru.”

The trip isn’t an official school event, but all the students are from Pioneer, as well as their two chaperones.

Pioneer World Language Department Chairwoman and Spanish teacher Emily Beeman will be one of them, along with gym teacher Robert Englehart. Beeman said the students will get much more out of their upcoming voyage than the average summer trip.

“They’ll get to explore another world society,” she explained. “I hope they’ll also learn that travel is exciting and fun, and can have a purpose.”

Ten of the students will get to try their conversational Spanish, while the two who take French will get a crash-course in the dominant language of South America. Luckily for them, Beeman and their classmates will be on hand to translate.

The trip, put together by World Challenge Expeditions, is part adventure and part community service.

The teens will explore exotic locales like Lake Titicaca and the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. They’ll also work together to help the local community.

Beeman said she’s not yet sure exactly what the service project will entail, but she’s got a hunch.

“They told us it will be in Cusco, and gave us a picture of a school building and playing fields,” she said. “A lot of it is supposed to be student-driven.”

Since the project’s not set in stone, Beeman said the students will have the chance to adapt their mission to help where it’s needed.

“I understand that, in the past, kids (with World Challenges) have done projects like school murals, and helped the local kids hone their soccer skills, though the kids in Peru could probably teach us a thing or two (about soccer).”

Though school won’t be in session, Beeman said many of the schools in Peru are also community centers, so there will likely be locals about.

The teenage travelers will also be responsible for keeping their trip on-budget.

“The kids will come up with the budget and make decisions like whether to shop and cook or go out to eat, as we go,” Beeman said.

“A lot of it is about learning the ability to travel,” she continued. “They will find that travel is attainable, and that they can manage a trip. A lot of what World Challenges does is to give them these types of lifelong skills.”

Though some of the specifics have yet to be determined, Beeman is sure about one thing.

“No matter what the kids get out of it, three weeks in another continent together is something they’ll always remember. It’s a win-win.”

Beeman said the students still have about $10,000 left to raise before the trip. They’ll hold periodic fundraisers, and donations may be sent any time to Peru Trip, care of PVRS language department, 97 F Sumner Turner Drive, Northfield, MA 01360.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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