Sophomores get insight into senior year possibilities

Stonehenge, Champs-Élysées and more on Summer 2017 trip

By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — Kate O’Neil kissed the Blarney Stone. And she liked it.

The Richmond Senior High School told that tale and many others Wednesday night to a group of nearly two dozen eager parents and sophomore students inside the school media center. The purpose of the gathering? To sell them on a 17-day educational adventure available to each student for the tidy sum of $4,625 ($5,200 for adult chaperones).

“I did kiss the Blarney Stone,” O’Neil said. ” Yes, it’s a touristy thing to do. It was worth it.”

Noah Spradlin | Katie O'Neil tells sophomore students and their parents about the Summer 2017 adventure that awaits them.

Noah Spradlin |
Katie O’Neil tells sophomore students and their parents about the Summer 2017 adventure that awaits them.

If O’Neil ever wants to pursue an opportunity in sales, the door’s open; she knows how to add value to a deal.

O’Neil did her best to sell nearly those in attendance on a Summer 2017 trip that will take students through Ireland, Scotland, England and France. Like an expert salesperson, O’Neil told the students they have only a week to think about it. Prices for the 2017 trip can be locked in if enrolled before March 26. Otherwise, O’Neil told parents and students gathered inside the school’s media center, the price is subject to change. They can, however, sign up almost any time between now and the trip.

In her 45-minute presentation, O’Neil covered all that the trip and its cost includes — and what is not included — and was sure to make use of the full bag of tricks used by the best sales people.

“Like any good sales pitch, the price is at the end,” O’Neil said, drawing anxious laughter from her audience.

O’Neil said the tour is coordinated and guided by Education First, a 50-year-old accredited education organization that offers unique learning experiences through travel to all parts of the globe. Students at Richmond Senior have trips planned for this and next summer, O’Neil said. Her task is to find at least 12 people — potentially a mix of students and chaperones — for the July 2017 adventure. The more the merrier, she said.

The trip, which includes a bilingual tour guide available 24 hours a day for all 17 days, will take travelers first to Killarney — with a chance to visit Blarney Castle — and Dublin, where students can see the Georgian squares, St. Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park.

On Day 6, students will take a ferry from Dublin to North Wales to visit a Welsh castle and travel through Snowdonia. The group then continues on to Edinburgh and Rydal Mount, with a tour of Edinburgh Castle and a visit to the William Wallace Monument (think Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”).

On Day 11, students will go to the birthplace of William Shakespeare — here, O’Neil giggled with enthusiasm, and noted that she is, after all, an English teacher. The next day, students will tour the Roman Baths and visit Stonehenge.

Day 13 will be highlighted by a trip to London. There, students can see Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey — and, if they’re lucky, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Yes, O’Neil said, the students could see if they could get the stone-faced guards to react to silly faces or sounds.

The trip wraps up with an excursion to France.

“I couldn’t be that close to Paris and not go to Paris,” O’Neil explained.

In Paris, students will tour the Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and more.

Of course, based on a number of conditions, a trip itinerary is tentative. But the adventure is real, O’Neil said, and little more than 51 months away. With a $95 non-refundable fee, students and parents then access a variety of payment plans — from lump sump to monthly, with flexibility in between. Anything other than a lump sum payment or automatic monthly payments is subject to a one-time fee of $50.

The $4,265 price includes $155 for trip insurance, which covers medical issues, lost baggage, delayed flights and other unexpected incidents that could arise and prevent the student from traveling. The insurance assures parents that funds paid, minus nonrefundable fees, would be refunded.

Students have more than two years to devise ways to fund the trip, O’Neil said. One popular way is for them to create an online crowdfunding campaign — based off the Education First website — and solicit contributions in lieu of presents for milestone moments or holidays.

O’Neil reminded parents there is power in buying in bulk and if students and parents did the same trip on their own, the trip would cost a lot more. The price doesn’t include money for incidentals, lunch each day, snacks, souvenirs or the obligatory tips to the tour guide, bus driver and others (which could amount to $10 per day). It also doesn’t account for obtaining a passport.

Students won’t be subjected to the school’s dress code but their conduct will need to be above reproach every step of the way. And if anyone misbehaves during the trip?

“I’m calling your mother,” O’Neil said with a sincere smile.



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