By Kathleen Szmit | The Barnstable Patriot | April 18, 2014
Barnstable, MA – In the wee hours of last night, while most people were sleeping, a group of students from Barnstable High School sleepily boarded a bus bound for Boston’s Logan Airport on the first leg of a momentous weeklong school trip. Their destination? Cuba.
For one week, 17 students and five adults (including the writer of this piece) will immerse themselves in Cuban culture, learning about the Cuban ways of life, enjoying the sights and sounds of the island country and, most importantly, visiting with its people.
Among the students making the journey are Hayden Murphy, Jojo Leveroni, Colby Burbank and David Palmer. All are students of Grace Lytle and Amy Semanscin’s Spanish classes, and each is excited about visiting a country few Americans get to see.
“It’s an experience that very few people in the United States are allowed to have,” said Murphy. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Leveroni said she was surprised when the destination was revealed many months ago.
“We always thought we’d go to Spain,” she said. “But it’s closed due to Easter. This is something we’ll never get to do in our lives unless we break the law.”
“We don’t know what they think, how they live or what it’s like to live there,” Leveroni said. “I’m excited to find out.”
Murphy is looking forward to immersing himself in all things Cuban for the week, experiencing Havana, the countryside and the various locales the group will visit while there.
Included among the destinations are visits to Old Havana, the Instituto Superior de Artes, a bioreserve and the Santo Tomas Cavern, as well as the Martin Luther King Center.
“I want to see the parts of Cuba the US doesn’t get to see,” said Murphy.
Palmer is looking forward to the food, the predicted fair weather and the cavern visit. He’s also interested in discovering how different Cuba is from China, which he visited through a previous school trip.
“In China there were guards everywhere,” Palmer said. “I’m curious to see what Cuba is like.”
“I’ve never been out of the country,” he said. “It will be definitely cool to see how people live around the world and in a communist country.”
While Cuba is communist and US tourists are prevented from visiting due to government restrictions, educational trips are permitted. BHS students and their respective adult chaperones are traveling via a licensed student travel organization that regularly conducts such trips.
Lytle, who planned the trip along with Semanscin, visited Cuba as a child and has memories of a place both vibrant and warm.
Leveroni said the general reaction from people she’s told about the trip is surprise.
“People always say, ‘You’re going to Cuba? No one goes to Cuba,’” she said. “We’re going.”
The impact of their destination, the group said, probably won’t hit them for a bit.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” said Burbank. “It’s definitely a huge opportunity. You can’t even describe it in words.”
Barnstable Patriot Senior Reporter Kathleen Szmit is accompanying the students on their trip and will share the group’s adventures in upcoming editions of the paper.