A total of 282 eighth-grade students, 24 chaperones and one school nurse will be packing up next month for Dempsey Middle School's 23rd annual trip to Washington, D.C.
Students will leave the school at 7 a.m. May 13 and return May 17. It will be one of the biggest groups Dempsey has sent to the nation's capital.
School guidance counselor Karla DeLong said the district at which she previously worked took yearly trips to Washington. She said she thought these trips were important for students, so she organized the first Dempsey trip to Washington in 1990.
Every year since then, she's continued to organize a trip for eighth-graders. The five-day trip includes all the major Washington highlights, as well as a tour of Gettysburg, Pa., on the first day.
Students will visit Arlington National Cemetery, where four students will have the honor of placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
They also will go to the National Archives, the Washington Monument, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Holocaust Museum and many of the Smithsonian museums.
Just for fun, they'll also take a dinner cruise on the Potomac River, attend the Medieval Times Dinner Theater in Baltimore, and take part in a scavenger hunt at Madame Tussaud's wax museum.
DeLong said many of her students have said the trip to Washington was the highlight of their middle school education.
She said students are learning life lessons, such as how to get up and get ready to be somewhere on time and how to be safe in a large city.
"Students also get to see their teachers in a different light," she said. "They develop relationships with teachers, as well as their classmates that they are rooming with. It's really a great time.
"Students are also learning life skills such as how to manage their money," DeLong said.
Parents typically send money with their children for discretional spending. DeLong said many students spend it all on the first day.
In order to go, students must have good grades and be considered good citizens. DeLong said if students misbehave at Dempsey, they won't be taken to Washington to misbehave.
The students participate in four fundraisers -- two in seventh grade and two in eighth grade -- to raise money for the trip.
There also is financial assistance provided through scholarships, as well as money raised by student council.
DeLong said some teachers have anonymously donated money so no student would miss the opportunity to go.
Students are required to dress nicely on three days of the trip, and some teachers have given money to buy nice clothes for students who don't have them.
"I've done this trip for 26 years and I am a firm believer in what it does for our students," DeLong said. "It's a great time."