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HUNTINGTON PARK : Students Off on History-Making Trip

March 13, 1994|MARY HELEN BERG

A small group of hard-working fifth-graders were to meet at 5 this morning at Miles Avenue Elementary to start the trip of a lifetime.

The 23 youngsters from the nation's largest elementary school were setting out on an all-expenses-paid trip into history. This week, they will explore national landmarks in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia as part of the school's sixth annual Freedoms Foundation Program. The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge promotes the nation's heritage through educational programs.

The trip is an honor, not a vacation, said Gloria Hanson, school project spokeswoman.

The students reported on 20 historical sites and personalities, memorized Maya Angelou's inaugural poem, "This Bright Morning Dawning," and learned patriotic songs as part of the months of preparation for the trip. They can tell you where Abraham Lincoln was shot. And even how many chairs are in the White House dining room.

Miles Avenue and Euclid Avenue Elementary in Boyle Heights are the only two Los Angeles area schools to participate in the program, said Bob Jones, a fifth-grade teacher who coordinates the program with teacher Arlene Peta.

School fund-raisers have paid for the students' air fare and lodging, which amounted to nearly $20,000, Jones said.

Students are interviewed and evaluated for their effort, progress in school and maturity before being selected for the program.

"These are not just straight-A students, Jones said. "These are kids who basically work hard and who strove to go on this trip. Every child knows about it since kindergarten."

Each student will keep a journal and will brief their classmates and program sponsors when they return.

Daniel Correa, 11, said he has been watching nightly TV newscasts so he would be abreast of current events in case he met President Clinton.

"I want to get information to pass along to future kids if I become a teacher," Daniel said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event."

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