IT'S BEEN the ultimate school field trip. Eleven sixth- and seventh-graders from Squaw Peak School in Phoenix, Ariz., are in Carroll County for the week, using a county residence as a staging area for trips to Baltimore and Washington.
The trip is the brainchild of their teachers, Yolanda Waggoner and Maran Aukerman, a former Linwood resident who grew up in Carroll.
The teachers and students are staying at the log cabin home of Dale and Ruth Aukerman, Maran's parents.
And they're having the time of their lives.
When I visited the students on a cold Monday night, they were tired but excited after two trips to Washington.
Two girls packed 13 lunches, assembly-line style, at the kitchen table, in preparation for another trip to Washington the next day.
Before the week is over, they will have visited Washington three times, toured Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and paid a visit to Western Maryland College.
For most of these students, it's their first trip away from home, and their first trip East.
Waggoner got the idea of taking the students on this extraordinary field trip in the spring, when she read a newspaper article about a Hispanic march on Washington.
She and Aukerman thought that it would be a great experience for their students, all Hispanics, to be in Washington for the march.
Aukerman, who works for Teach for America, applied for grants to make the trip a reality. Money from Aetna Life Insurance's Course to College fund and PrimeStar Viewers' Choice "Above and Beyond" grants funded 10 children for the adventure.
But 11 students applied to go on the trip, and Aukerman decided to pay for that child's way.
When her school board heard of the plan at a meeting, members took a collection on the spot to send the 11th child.
"It's the first time anything like that had ever happened, according to my principal," she said.
Aukerman got more help in Carroll County -- neighbors and friends have provided food, lent winter coats, and Vickie Mastalerz of Linwood and Brenda Palsgrove of New Windsor have provided their minivans to transport the children during the week.
Although the teachers couldn't get the trip organized in time for the Hispanic march, the students have learned a lot.
Being exposed to the idea of college is one.
Aukerman wanted her students to start thinking about higher education.
Putting hard work into a mock college application qualified them to go on the trip, and following through with a visit to Western Maryland College will complete the process.
Beyond the trips into the cities, riding the Metro, and discussing the differences between the East and West, the children have enjoyed their stay at the Aukermans -- taking morning walks or nighttime hikes by flashlight, noticing the contrasts between their desert, urban environment and the farmland of Linwood, enjoying the cold snap in the weather and frost on the ground.
"We get up early and take long walks and look at the frost," said Juan Solsano. "We wish it would snow."
Watching cows graze, seeing a rabbit hop across the road, and observing a squirrel on the Capitol lawn have become moments to remember.
"They've been writing like mad in their journals and clicking pictures of everything -- from my mother cooking dinner to riding on the Metro," Aukerman said. "They're having a wonderful time. And, for me, just seeing the expressions on the kids' faces when they were going down the ramp to get on the airplane in Phoenix was something I'll never forget."
Students from Squaw Peak are Jose Valdez, Mario Solsano, Juliana Huicochea, April Hernandez, Vincenta Martinez, Carlos Valljo, Juan Solsano, Magaly Preciado, Yesenia Villegas, Miriam Zapata, Anna Corona and Michelle Layva.
Don't forget Basket Bingo sponsored by Francis Scott Key Band Boosters on Saturday at the high school cafeteria.
Games begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10 a person. Winners get Longaberger baskets, and homemade sandwiches and desserts will be sold. Information: 775-7541.
Pub Date: 11/14/96