BLOOMFIELD, N.Y. — A group of 18 juniors and seniors from Bloomfield High School in Ontario County is preparing for the trip of a lifetime, one that only a few Americans might ever get to experience.
Earlier this spring, the students, who are part of the International Baccalaureate Creativity, Activity and Service Program, decided they wanted to travel internationally. They settled on Cuba after the recent thawing of diplomatic relations between the island nation and the U.S.
The trip falls under “educational activities”, which is one of the allowable reasons for Americans to travel to the nation. Once the Board of Education approved the eight-day trip, students got to work right away, raising $14,000.
“They’re just amazing,” said School Counselor and IB CAS Coordinator Felice Prindle. “They have just taken this idea and really run with it. They’ve made it their own. They’ve taken a lot of ownership. They’re so excited. They loved the idea of being pioneers and experiencing a culture that’s really gone untouched from an American standpoint for the last 50 plus years.”
Their itinerary is packed with activities meant to immerse them into the culture. This includes learning how to salsa dance, eating with local fisherman and visiting an organic fruit farm.
Prindle said they will not be staying in any traditional hotels and will only be eating at family-owned restaurants.
Senior Allison Kelley is most excited for the architecture and the hiking.
“Probably the nature is really going to stick with me because I’ve gone on hikes from Naples and stuff like that, but it’s not going to be anything like Cuba,” said Kelley.
She said she is also excited to see the vehicles there.
“What I’m really looking forward to is being able to ride in the old fashioned cars from the 1950s,” said Kelley. “Those are going to be really cool.”
And their adventures will not just include learning.
“We’re doing a service project for the bulk of our trip where we live on a nature preserve along the Zaza River,” said Prindle. “Our service project itself is collecting and replanting red mangrove seeds to help the ecosystem and then to also help in hurricane season for erosion.”
Kelley said they are not concerned about the changing political climate, which is still in flux after the recent death of Fidel Castro.
“I think it’s a little concerning about their reactions, if we have bad reactions, but I think our group is really good at being respectful and I think we’re taking a lot of good precautions like we’re not going to bring Nike embroidered things, or like Pink or Victoria’s Secret, all that down there,” said Kelley. “We’re going to try and dress more conservatively. We don’t want to look like tourists.”
Depending on the future of travel restrictions to Cuba, this group may become one of the few high schools in America to ever get to experience its culture.
The students will leave from Toronto on December 26 and return January 2.
See video here.
Tara Grimes, Time Warner Cable News
December 12, 2016