Ellis Island - New Jersey

A Parent Program Leader’s Perspective

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Nicolai Kreger isn’t your average Program Leader. As a parent volunteer she is excited to take students to Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and New York City, a learning experience usually reserved for teachers.

Why do you believe that educational travel is so important?
I believe that educational travel gives students the opportunity to learn life skills that will benefit them in their future years. Our society has become mobile and global, so learning to plan and travel can be an asset. We live in a small community and for some of the students experiencing a big city is quite a learning experience in itself. The opportunity for the students to connect their traditional classroom lessons while personally standing at a historical site will help them to see the reality of our history.

What do you enjoy most about being a Program Leader?
I enjoy helping students learn that dreams can come true. We start planning 18 months in advance with monthly meetings. The students learn to set goals, implement plans to achieve them, and then enjoy the results of their time and effort. Through this process I see each and every one of them grow and gain confidence as a person. I also enjoy seeing them get excited about things they have learned.

Do you think that you have a different perspective being a parent Program Leader?
I think that the students may be more relaxed with me as a Program Leader.  The students are very engaged and seem free to express themselves and answer questions without being concerned they might not have the right answer. As an adult, friend, and Program Leader, I can offer a relaxed, fun learning experience with different expectations. I focus on safety, citizenship, and fun because I know that on a WorldStrides program the education will just happen.

Have you and your students had success in your fundraising efforts?
Yes, we do a lot of fundraising. We have always raised over 50 percent of the students’ costs through fundraising. As a volunteer in the community, I have been fortunate to work with local businesses and civic organizations to gain support through the past 10 years. Our yearly program is recognized and accepted in our community. I even have parents with toddlers asking when their child will be old enough to participate!

What rewards do you receive as a Program Leader from watching students really “see history” outside of a classroom?
How many of us Program Leaders have heard a student say “I get it now!”?  Watching the light go on and the excitement in students’ eyes as they experience history come to life is rewarding.

What is your favorite site or activity?
I enjoy each and every moment traveling with the students, be it the solemn time witnessing the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery or the excitement of a Broadway play. My favorite, however, is watching them experience the battlefield at Gettysburg. The Course Leader does an excellent job re-enacting Pickett’s Charge and helping the students understand the significance of the battle and its relevance to what America is today.

Do you have any interesting stories/experiences from any of your trips that you would like to share?
For students to participate in an experience outside of school offers many opportunities. One of the common things I have witnessed with each group is that once we board the bus for the airport, all the cliques and peer pressures from the school environment fade away. The students traveling together form a bond and came away from the trip with new friendships. A couple of students shared with me that the experience of leaving home and traveling for a week made it easier for them to move away for college. One of the participants in our 2009 group was so inspired that he even served as a Page in our State Senate and has hopes to serve in D.C. in the near future.  For each student the program has a different meaning, but they all come home with the common feeling they are glad to have gone on the trip.

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