Heading to Rome

From left, Needville Middle School and Junior High art teacher Amanda Mahler discusses a summer trip to Rome with fellow travelers, seventh-graders Skylar Butler and Arleth Escobar. Only a few spots remain for the tour, which takes place July 13-20.

Only nine spots remain for individuals interested in taking an educational tour to Rome in July, but the group may be expanded if need be.

Needville ISD middle school and junior high art teacher Amanda Mahler and high school ag teacher Marc Hackstedt are heading up the adventure, which is being booked through Education First (EF), an international company that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree programs, and cultural exchange.

“This will be my third tour with the company,” said Mahler. “I started with EF when I was in high school and we went to Rome.”

Since then she has toured France, Great Britain and Spain and through EF, and returned to Italy.

As for this summer’s trip, Mahler said the purpose is to provide Needville ISD students and community members the opportunity to explore such places as Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri and the Naples region, to name a few.

“We’re going to explore the ruins and the culture, and we’ll do fun stuff like taking a pizza-making class,” she said. “We’ll also go to Vatican City and see the Sistine Chapel, and then we will see the Coliseum and the Pantheon and the Roman Forum; all the historical, touristy spots in Rome, itself.”

The eight-day tour is set for July 13-20 and is available for anyone age 11 or older. Thus far, 31 students and chaperones have signed up for the adventure, and Hackstedt said the group may be expanded if needed, in order to accommodate as many people as possible.

Although adults are welcome, said Mahler, “this is student-centered and we want to keep it for the students.”

In fact, students can earn high school and college credit by attending the trip and completing a short assignment upon returning.

This is Mahler’s first year at Needville ISD, coming to the district from Klein ISD. She said she was “getting the itch to travel” and decided to run the overseas tour idea by school administrators, who gave it a thumbs up although it’s not a school-sponsored adventure.

“The main reason for this international trip is to allow students to become more global-minded thinkers and in tune with the vast world around them,” said Hackstedt. “This educational tour will help students immensely, in many ways, from international business to world politics.

“Coming from a small town and rural background, like many students have at this point in their lives, the educational-oriented trip will expand their desire for future knowledge and develop a culture of being a lifelong learner,” he added. “The entire trip, from experiencing the daily routines in a foreign country to the historical aspect, will provide an atmosphere that will be mind-opening to all who travel with us.”

Hackstedt said the trek will provide local youngsters networking opportunities with other students from across the U.S. as well as like-minded students from other countries, and foster friendships that may last a lifetime.

“Hopefully this program will encourage students to consider studying abroad during their college years and pursue careers with important international relations,” he said. “We would like to see a program like this offered to the students of NISD every three or four years.”

Seventh-graders Skylar Butler and Arleth Escobar among the students taking the trip, and both are counting the days to take-off.

“But I’m mostly looking forward to the Trevi Fountain and the food,” Escobar said with a laugh. “My favorite food is pizza and pasta.”

Mahler explained there’s myth surrounding the Trevi Fountain which says anyone who tosses a coin in it will visit Rome again in their lifetime.

Escobar said she’s never been overseas and is anxious to experience Rome’s rich history.

“I mostly want to go for the views because it’s really pretty there,” said Butler.

Both girls said the trip is inspiring them to see more of Europe in the future.

Cost is about $3,800 for ages 11-20 and approximately $4,200 for ages 21 and older, and includes all airfare from Houston, hotels, tours, transportation, admissions, and two meals per day.

Students are in the process of planning summer fundraisers to help defray the cost of the trip.

For more information, e-mail Mahler mahlera@needvilleisd.com, Hackstedt at hackstedtm@ needvilleisd.com or visit the EF Web site at www.eftours.com/2207110NE.

Hackstedt said it is important to note that the third-to-last character in the Web site address is a zero and not the letter “O”.

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