Lancer Letter – New York, New York!

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

It was in 1981 that I got the idea that it would be a great thing to take members of the GM High School choir to experience the life and culture of New York City. So we began fund raising and in 1983, took our first trip.

I’ll never forget that first day going into the city. We came out of the Lincoln Tunnels onto 42nd Street. That was before the street was bought up by Disney and turned into a respectable collection of theaters. Our somewhat naive students were staring out the bus windows, watching a guy wearing only a red Speedo go about the street on roller skates. A cast of very interesting characters hung out on the street, many representing rather nefarious professions. I remember thinking to myself, “My God, what have I done!”

The trip went without incident and we were all enriched by the experience. It is important to expose our students to different experiences. This summer, students will travel to China. Trips to Costa Rico and various European countries also take place. Providing these opportunities are an important part of the learning experience we offer at GM.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to accompany the chorus on this year’s trip to the Big Apple. The last time we were there was 1989 and NYC has changed quite a bit – for the better. Bruce and Trisha Yates do a fabulous job putting together a unique experience and have done so for the last two decades. In addition to seeing three Broadway shows, their contacts there in the theater business allowed our students to spend an afternoon singing for, and hearing sing, a number of Broadway performers. They also had the opportunity to go to a dance studio and learn choreography from the Broadway hit, Something Rotten, taught by a star of the show.

I wanted to share three observations I made while on the trip.

Observation #1: I do not know if our children fully appreciate the privilege it is to live in these United States.

We stayed in New Jersey our first night and took the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan. At first there was some disappointment. The Statue of Liberty should have been in clear view the whole time but a heavy fog masked it. As we got closer to the island, Lady Liberty came into view, almost mystically. First the lamp, then her face and finally the full statue.

I felt it particularly moving to see this icon of freedom slowly revealed. I couldn’t help but think back to my grandparents and great grandparents who came to this country from Italy in the early 1900’s. Was I experiencing the emotion they felt? Could I ever know the hope they clung to with the opportunity that lay before them? When their long journey culminated finally by seeing her “lift her lamp beside the golden door,” were they moved? I would think they were very moved, more than any of us who have grown complacent with the freedom this nation offers.

Observation #2: Despite a decrease in the display of “grit” among our students, Americans remain resilient and even defiant, when it comes to challenges to our democracy.

Shortly after getting off the ferry, we went to the very sobering 9/11 Museum. It has been nearly 16 years since that tragedy but it seems a short amount of time to have transformed that space from rubble into a monument that simultaneously honors the lives lost, celebrates the American ingenuity that built the towers, and makes a statement for democracy. We all watched it on television but being there and seeing the size and scope of the disaster and hearing about all of the lives that were impacted that day brought a whole new perspective.

Observation #3: We live life in miniature.

Here in northwest PA, everything is miniature compared to a city like New York. Fewer people, fewer automobiles, fewer and smaller buildings–less of everything! I enjoy our quiet, “miniature” lifestyle but it is good to be reminded that everyone does not live this way. We have graduates all over the world, living in large cities and really loving it. I’m grateful to have faculty who spend the extra time and effort to give our students the exposure to great cities of the world!

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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