CHARLEVOIX — A mere mention of Cuba to most people may invoke images of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the revolutionary dictator Fidel Castro, cigars, Guantanamo Bay and an island 90 miles from Florida that essentially has been forbidden to Americans since the late 1950s.
The recent easing of travel restrictions, by President Obama and his administration presents students and community members of Charlevoix with what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Cuba as part of an educational tour.
“Since it is open to travel to Cuba, I really wanted to take students to see this communist country that once had great relations with America,” said Annemarie Conway, Charlevoix High/Middle School social studies/humanities class instructor. “We will be learning everything about the country before we go.”
The trip is planned for June 2016 and approximately 12 students have expressed interest to go.
“I’m excited to be part of history because we haven’t been able to travel to Cuba legally for more than 50 years,” said high school junior Michael Hinkle II. “I think it will be exciting to visit a culture that basically is at a stand-still since the 1960s.”
Hinkle hopes to see what the effects of communism have on a culture that once had diplomatic ties to America.
“I’ve only experienced one form of government growing up and to see what the effects of another type of government has on a country is exciting for me,” Hinkle said.
For high school junior Megan Freds, the trip is about seeing new sights and sharing in the culture differences of the country compared to America.
“Coming from a small town in Michigan, I imagine it is a different reality in Cuba,” Freds said. “I just want to see what it is like. The mention of Cuba seems so exotic, eye opening and different.”
Jacob Petrosky, who is a freshman in high school, wants to see the difference between culture in Cuba and America.
“It is so much different than what we have,” Petrosky said. “A lot of what we are going there to do will have us interact with the local community. We will be going to an agricultural farm that is very different than what we do have in Michigan.”
High school junior Ben Boss hopes the trip will give him more understanding about the country.
“The first thing I really think of when I think of Cuba is the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Boss said. “To actually visit the country and see it first-hand to try and understand it more. I hope it will paint a different picture in my mind of what they are really like because they were kind of a threat to the United States 50 years ago.”
The Charlevoix Board of Education approved the trip to take students, but also gave approval for adults from the community to attend the trip.
“Every time I tell someone about the trip they want to go because it is such a new thing,” Conway said.
The trip costs
Conway and students have begun fundraising initiatives to help offset the costs for students to go. Students are selling Subway cards through Friday, May 15, and the next fundraiser will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, at the Charlevoix Cinema III.
The theater will be showing Motorcycle Diaries and Avengers: Age of Ultron and the proceeds from the ticket sales will go towardthe Cuba trip.
“I want to fundraise as much of this trip for the students,” Conway said. “It’s a neat opportunity for them and I don’t want the costs to hold them back from going.”
For more information about the trip, call Conway at (231) 676-0855 or email [email protected]
Lonnie Allen (231) 547-6558 – [email protected], Petoskey News
May 11, 2015