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Choir Washington D.C. trip touches lives
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Members of Great Bend High Schools Madrigals and A Capella Choir assembled with Capitol Dome, Washington D.C., in background. The dome is undertgoing a restoration project expected to be completed sometime in the fall of 2016. Students raised funds through school events and many community provided work opportunities to earn their spring break trip. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Student reflections

Stambaugh collected written reflexions of students attending the Washington D.C. trip as they returned to school.   While varied, they were unanimous in one area.  Despite the hard work leading up to the trip, they would all do it again.

“The most memorable moment, for me at least, was singing a prelude to the Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I’m Catholic, so singing in the most beautiful church I’ve ever entered was big for me, plus, the acoustics were startlingly brilliant.”  -- Sarah Keller

“Just shows that hard work really pays off.  Very magical.” -- Daisy Jones

“The most memorable part of D.C. was singing in the Basilica Shrine as a choir.  The fact that you hear the echo for more than four seconds afterward.  It was a completely different experience to sing together as a choir family.” -- Aubrey Maneth

“I’m so glad I had the chance to come to D.C., especially with a choir as blessed and as talented as this one.  I’ve learned more and seen more than I could’ve possibly imagined.” -- Ian McGilber

“I participated in many Rent-A-Student fundraiser jobs.  This was very beneficial to me.  Even though it was some hard work, it payed off.”-- Kayn Milholland

“The effort was worth the trip 100 percent.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.” -- Hunter Middleton

“My favorite parts of the D.C. trip were going on the night tour, getting to see Mount Vernon, and the dance on the dinner cruise.  The dance was more fun than any other dances I’ve been to.” --Rachel Carpenter

by Veronica Coons
Tribune Staff

Choir members from Great Bend once again shared their vocal talent in the nation’s capital during spring break. Venues include the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  
It was the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of effort on the part of choir students who worked to fundraise $1,400 each for the opportunity.  
But it was also thanks to the USD 428 school board and administration and efforts of the community who showed their support, said Susan Stambaugh, vocal music teacher at Great Bend High School.
“The positive effects of this trip are far reaching,” she said.  “Years later, some event in a former student’s life will make them reflect again on what they experienced on the trip and they will write me, expressing a renewed appreciation for what may be at even this adolescent age have had life-long positive effects.”
  The adventure of a life time
Arriving in Washington D.C. early in the afternoon on Wednesday, March 18, 53 students and  19 sponsors toured the National Cathedral, followed by an afternoon spent exploring the Smithsonian Museums of Natural History, Air and Space, and American History.  Students received vouchers to dine at the Pentagon City Mall, and returned to their hotel early to recover from the their travel.  
Thursday, they performed at the Atrium of the Veteran’s Hospital and visited with veterans.  
Students had the opportunity to lunch on their own, and visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum that afternoon.  Dinner at Union Station was followed by a guided night tour of Washington D.C. before returning to the hotel.
Friday morning, the students attended a guided tour of Arlington National Cemetery, where they visited the graves of John F. Kennedy, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony. That afternoon, they toured Mt. Vernon, the home and farm of George Washington on the shore of the Potomac River.  
Saturday, the group went downtown where they assembled for a mid-morning photo at the White House, and visited the National Archives.  Early in the afternoon, they toured the U.S. Capitol building.  
Mid-afternoon, they arrived at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where they rehearsed for their performance during the prelude to the Mass.  
That night, they enjoyed a riverboat cruise dinner and dance to mark the end of their time in the nation’s capital.
Sunday, students and sponsors broke into three groups.  One would leave at 8:30 a.m. for Kansas City, while the remaining two toured the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Dulles campus, home of many aviation related artifacts.  The group was reunited in Kansas City that evening for the drive back to Great Bend.
Hard work
Some of the ways students earned the money to take the trip included selling tickets to the annual chili supper before the homecoming football game, and through several “rent-a-student” opportunities.  Household labor, like mowing lawns, hauling trash, washing windows, etc. and several babysitting jobs were passed on to willing students with pay going towards the trip.  While they had the option to pay their way out of pocket, most took part in at least a few fundraisers, which included a hog feed, garage sales, bake sales, cookie dough sales, working the concession stands during athletic events, and other opportunities.  The community has shown an outpouring of support for these events, Stambaugh said, and the choir is grateful.  
While Stambaugh has been leading the trip for many years, 1997 was the first year both the A Cappella Choir and the Madrigal Pops Singers attended together.  Three of the adult sponsors, parents of students in this year’s choir, were former choir students of Stambaugh’s from her 31 years at Great Bend High School.  Several have shared they have made return trips to D.C. years later because of the interest generated from their choir trip, she said.  Former students who now live in the Washington D.C. area also contacted the group during this year’s trip, which drove home to students the impact participating in choir had on their lives.