From now on, when 16-year-old Stacey Finkelstein visits Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, she'll recall seeing the real thing.
Stacey and 21 other high school-aged students from Viewpoint School in Calabasas recently returned from a nine-day tour of Germany during the school's spring break.
"It was so beautiful," Stacey said of the Ludwig Neuschwanstein Castle outside Munich, one of many landmarks the Disneyland attraction is modeled after. "Seeing it made you feel like you were in a fairy tale."
Besides castles, the students saw remnants of the Berlin Wall, discussed diplomacy with the assistant ambassador to Germany, had a backstage tour of the Reichstag--the German parliament building--and even had a quick one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
"Meeting him was pretty cool," said Alexander Plitt, 17. "He met with Yassir Arafat after he met with us."
The students also had plenty of down time--nightly curfew wasn't until 11 p.m.--to tour Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin, where they got around by mass transit.
"I learned how independent I could be," Stacey said. "I wish we had a Metro system like that [here in the San Fernando Valley]."
The students also met with 11th-graders studying English at a high school in suburban Berlin.
"I thought they would be different," said Alexander, "but their clothes are similar to ours. Their music too."
The Viewpoint students will host the German students here in the fall.
Although Viewpoint School has a 10-year history of student trips abroad, this is the first time Germany was on the itinerary. The trip was scheduled after Thomas Gottschalk, a popular German entertainer whose two children attend Viewpoint, suggested it, according to headmaster Bob Dworkoski.
"You can study in the classroom," said Dworkoski, one of three chaperons, "but you won't get the incredible experience we have had."
WINNING WRITER: Eleni Karas of Louisville High School in Woodland Hills is one of 15 Gold Award winners in this year's Scholastic Art and Writing Awards contest for her personal essay-memoir, "Living in My Grandmother's Name."
Eleni, 17, will receive $100 and attend an awards ceremony in June at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Established in 1923, the awards are administered by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Inc. Each year the event attracts about 250,000 works of art and writing by students in grades seven through 12 for judging in various categories.
SHOWSTOPPERS: Burbank High School took second place in mixed show choir, all female show choir and solo competitions at the national Showstoppers Show Choir Invitational held recently in St. Louis.
This is the second year Burbank High vocalists have placed in the event that features the nation's best high school show choirs.
GUTENBERG GREATS: Some 900 students from nearly two dozen high schools throughout Southern California participated last week in the Gutenberg Festival, a graphics and communications show and competition held at Long Beach Convention Center.
Students from Hart High School in Newhall and San Fernando High School in Pacoima won competitions for outstanding design and production of a T-shirt.
Taft High School also competed against three other high schools on its knowledge of writing, graphic design and printing.
This is the 12th year the Printing and Industries Assn. of Southern California has sponsored the event designed to provide high school students exposure to the printing industry.
The Glendale Community College Orchestra will perform Dvorak, Debussy and Strauss at 4 p.m. Sunday at the campus auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door: $5 general admission; $3 for students and seniors. 1500 N. Verdugo Road. Information: (818) 240-1000, Ext. 5621.
Class Notes appears every Wednesday. Send news about schools to the Valley Edition, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Or fax it to (818) 772-3338.