Crook County drama students experience the culture and sights of New York City

ANITA HOFFMAN - Students and their chaperones have a group photo taken in Times Square. Front row from left to right: Elyssa Orozco, Anita Hoffman, Jenna Porter, Lillian Hoffman, Taylor Wanous, Casey Tunison and Chantrece Worthington. Back row from left to right: Drew Finley, Gala Smith, Erin Crawford, Anna Williamson, Zoe Poor, Katie Jones, Aiden Rictor, Hazel Hoffman, Jayme Pack, Sydney Hacker, Cathy Wilson and Hope Smith.

Seventeen Crook County drama students just returned from a tour of the Big Apple — and it was an eye opener.

"It definitely showed me different cultures and how so many people come together, and they work together to get to places that they need to go," said Aiden Rictor, who will be a junior in the fall. "They're so respectful of other people's perspectives."

Crook County High School drama teacher Anita Hoffman took her students to New York City June 22-25 through WorldStrides, a student travel organization.

"Travel broadens you. It makes you a better human," Hoffman said. "You get a chance to see a wide variety of people."

The kids were treated to dance classes, Broadway productions, tours of historical sites, and the culture of New York City.

Two-year drama student Drew Finley, who will be a senior in the fall, said she wanted to go on this trip because she thought it would be a cool experience.

"We don't really have anything like that around here, and there's so much to see and do and so much historical background with everything in New York," she said.

The 17 students, who range in age from 13 to 18, flew out of Portland early Friday morning, June 22. Hoffman and Cathy Wilson, an aunt of one of the students, served as chaperones.

They met up with WorldStrides course leader Janet Bucco, their full-time tour guide.

That evening, they saw their first Broadway show before heading to the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott to catch a few hours of sleep.

The group spent Saturday and Sunday touring the city, from early morning to late at night.

Hoffman and some of her students traveled to New York with WorldStrides four years ago. She said the travel company was great about tailoring a trip for them, and if they were going to be in New York City, she wanted her students to see more than just one Broadway show.

"The kids got to take two Broadway Classroom classes, both of them dancing, which was a hoot, and then we got to see three shows," Hoffman said.

On Broadway, they watched the musicals "Wicked" and "Waitress," and they also saw "The Play that Goes Wrong."

Their first Broadway Classroom teacher was an ensemble member and also the understudy for Angelica in the original cast of "Hamilton."

"She made a choreographed dance off of one of the songs that she had performed in the play and taught us a little bit of that," Finley said.

The other teacher was in the ensemble of "Wicked," and he taught the students a musical piece from that.

"We had actually seen that play the night before, so it was really cool," Finley said.

In between the shows and classes, they crammed in as much sightseeing as possible.

They went to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, the 9/11 memorial, and ate at Planet Hollywood. They crossed paths with thousands of people.

"We could walk across the street in Times Square, and we would see more people in that crossing of the street than there were in Prineville," Hoffman said.

They walked through Central Park and saw Cleopatra's Needle and where they do Shakespeare in the Park.

"There was a point on Saturday where kids were looking at their iPhone that had counted their steps, and we hadn't even finished the day, and one kid had 24,000 steps and 17 flights of stairs," Hoffman laughed. "It was crazy."

They also walked the High Line, a relatively new trail.

"It's just fabulous because you could see sweeping views of the Hudson River and New Jersey, and you turned around and you could see all the construction and all the gigantic, tall buildings," Hoffman said.

They went to Zuccotti Park, the Empire State Building, and to Wall Street to see the Fearless Girl and the Bull.

"We went over to Trinity Church and saw where Alexander Hamilton and his family were buried," Hoffman said. "'Hamilton' is a big musical right now, so it's a big, crazy place to go to."

They also saw the Oculus.

"It looks like the skeleton of a whale," Hoffman said of the shopping mall. "Outside, it looks stunning, and you go on the inside, and it's a cavern. It's like a gigantic cathedral for shopping."

They ate at some small eateries and food carts as well as some specialty restaurants. They saw lots of homeless people and passed numerous panhandlers. They enjoyed the aromas of cooking meat and toasted bread but also noticed the smells of urine and garbage.

"It was a sensory assault," Hoffman laughed.

On Monday, they took the subway to Battery Park, where they had breakfast. They then toured Liberty Island, saw the Statue of Liberty, and took a ferry to Ellis Island.

They then went to Chinatown, where they watched a large group of older Asian folks singing with a karaoke machine and playing Mahjong and Chess in a park.

"They thought it was so funny because Asian music tends to be kind of atonal, and it's not what our ears are used to. But by the end, the kids were like, 'this is so cool, a bunch of older people just hanging out and singing songs, singing their greatest hits,'" Hoffman said. "It was really pretty eye-opening. It was lovely."

They toured Little Italy, where the kids got to taste cannoli, before heading to the Newark airport to begin their journey home. They got back to Prineville around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

The trip, which they began planning a year ago, had cost each student $2,500. They did some group fundraisers, including Monte Carlo Bowling, while some students got jobs to pay for it or accepted donations from family and friends.

Finley said she learned a lot on this trip and would encourage others to travel.

"The culture is so different, and it was an awesome experience," she said.

Rictor, who has been in drama since sixth grade, went so he could see what the big city was like. He enjoyed seeing all the history and the old-time grand theaters on Broadway.

"I've always been more drawn to a bigger city, faster pace, so I just wanted to get a glimpse of what it would actually be like," he said.

Hoffman was glad for the opportunity to get kids out of Prineville to experience the Big Apple.

"I think it's great to have kids broaden their worlds and see other things," she said.

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