Students get culture, adventure on summer trip

By: 
Jamie Hult, Staff writer

Brandon Valley High students and faculty chaperones saw BVHS alum Cody Strand perform in “The Book of Mormon” in London, the first stop on their two-week tour of Europe in June. Submitted photo

Brandon teens and chaperones leaned in for a group photo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They took in three other Italian cities: Rome, Florence and Assissi.  Submitted photo

Once upon a time, working all summer to save up for a car was the typical teenage experience.
Times have changed, however, as have opportunities for many teens. Today they’re also saving up to go abroad.
This summer, 27 Brandon Valley High School students and grads did just that. 
High school principal Dr. Gregg Talcott helped chaperone the two-week tour of Europe in June.
“They were such a great group to travel with – so good to each other and extremely appreciative of everything they saw and did,” said Talcott, who was joined by his wife, Kami, and BVHS teachers Amy Frantzen and Lisa Reinschmidt. 
The group began in London. In addition to must-see sites like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, they saw hometown product, Cody Strand, perform in “The Book of Mormon.” Strand, a 2006 BV grad who also starred in “Mormon” on Broadway, treated the students to a backstage tour after the show. 
They were in the audience when the terrorist attack happened on London Bridge. 
“The parents knew about it before we did. They were calling and texting to make sure the kids were okay,” Talcott said. “We were miles away and never in any danger.”
The vacation itself provided enough drama. After seeing the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on the Queen’s birthday, they headed to Paris.
“The Eiffel Tower was a lot taller than I expected,” said Faith Burch. 
For fellow BVHS seniors Ellie Holmes and Alyssa Fick, Lucerne, Switzerland was the highlight of the trip.
“It was so beautiful – like a vacation within a vacation,” Fick said. “I decided I want my honeymoon there.”
The students and chaperones ascended Mt. Pilatus.
Holmes was a speed demon on the Alpine Slide, getting up to 55 km per hour at one point.
“She was definitely the fastest,” Fick said.  
Mt. Pilatus also has the world’s steepest cable and cog railway.
“For a lot of kids that was certainly a highlight,” Talcott said. “You’d hear cowbells as you were going down like you were in a movie.”
The final stop was Italy – Rome, Assissi, Pisa and Florence, the principal’s favorite destination. They stayed in the heart of the city, within 20 yards of the Duomo. 
“Travel is such an amazing experience. It’s a gift you give yourself,” Talcott said. “It puts things in perspective, makes you come back and appreciate what you have.”
This was by no means his first time to chaperone a school trip to Europe, but it was his first in 20 years. 
“My real enjoyment is watching the kids have their experiences – all those a-ha moments,” Talcott said. “You come back thinking what you thought was old really isn’t old at all.”
A few students took Go Cams along to capture video of the trip. Megan Stettnichs edited her footage into an 8-minute movie and put it on Facebook. 
“It’s just an amazing video,” Talcott said. “You should really see it.”
On June 14 the BVHS students and staff returned stateside only to discover their final flight had been canceled, leaving them stuck at O’Hare International Airport for more than 20 hours. They used their time creatively. A few even learned some yoga. 
Eighteen of the 27 teens had graduated from BVHS in May. For them Europe was a final hurrah before heading off to college. 
There’s already a full waiting list for Europe 2018, too. The trip costs about $4,000 per student. A group of 48 is now saving up for their own typical teenage experience next summer. 

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