Over Long Winter Weekend, 13 Deerfield seniors and two faculty advisors, English Department Chair Mr. Michael Schloat and Science teacher Ms. Heidi Valk, embarked on a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana as part of the English course “Telling True Stories.”
Tarah Almonacy ’17, a student in the class, explained, “The premise of [this trip] was to choose a city in the United States that we could study and visit and then come back and write a nonfiction piece on our findings.”
Jacqueline Alvarado ’17 added, “The main purpose… was for us to experience being freelance writers… we wanted to write in the style of magazine journalism.”
After researching potential cities in the US, the class narrowed down possible choices to five cities: New Orleans, LA, Washington, DC, Austin, TX, Brownsville, TX, and New York City, NY.
Miles Menafee ’17 stated that the class ultimately “decided on New Orleans because it offered such a variety of topics to study,” such as food, music, architecture, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Schloat explained that the trip was primarily organized by the students.
He said they were in charge of staying within a budget, finding affordable flights and hotels through a school-appointed travel agent, and organizing interviews, tours, restaurant reservations, and tickets to shows.
The students were divided into six groups that concentrated on different topics related to New Orleans, including jazz music, low-income housing, and architectural history.
Additionally, Mr. Schloat highlighted, “Once [the students] return, each individual writes their own piece. For example, in the low-income housing group, one student may choose to write a profile on people trying to obtain housing after Hurricane Katrina, while another may study a specific low-income housing project that is currently taking place.”
On the trip, both students and faculty found that the people of New Orleans were eager to share their experiences.
Mr. Schloat commented, “Students learned how generous most people are with their time and expertise if you just reach out and ask.” He explained that this lesson is especially relevant to the current generation.
Students also learned important lessons about independence.
Cassie Deshong ’17 mentioned, “[this trip] gave me a taste of the real world… [it] taught me that if I want something, I have to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and ask.”
According to the students, some highlights of the trip included sampling the local cuisine, exploring unique neighborhoods, and visiting an authentic New Orleans jazz club.
Although this year was the first time that the “Telling True Stories” class partook in a student-run trip over Long Winter Weekend, Mr. Schloat confirmed that he was “thrilled and impressed by the students’ conduct and behavior,” and would love to go on a similar trip next year. The students echoed this sentiment, expressing that they enjoyed this memorable and enriching experience.