Washington, D.C. & New York Trip

EF / Explore America

For over 55 years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to one global mission: Opening the World Through Education. Our programs help students expand their knowledge of the world around them, discover more about themselves, grow more confident and independent, and understand new people, places, and cultures. 

Group Leader: Jason Echeverria

Requested Departure Date: 3/24/2025

Requested Return Date: 3/29/2025

Requested Departure Gateway: Boise (ID)

"Growing DC tour brings history to life for Malheur County students"

by By Steven Mitchell - The Enterprise on May 21, 2024

The number of Malheur County students traveling to Washington and New York over spring break this year doubled after a pair of former middle school teachers lobbied to have the annual trip coordinated through the Malheur County Education Service District. 

Officials at Ontario Middle School have organized a trip to Washington since the mid-1990s. However, when the two teachers who had organized the trip left the district ­– one retired in 2020 while the other took a new job in 2021 – they feared nobody would take up the reins on organizing the trip each year.  

Greg Alexander, a retired eighth-grade social studies and U.S. history teacher, began the tradition of taking kids to Washington. When Jason Echeverria, who taught social studies to seventh graders, joined the district, he soon began helping Alexander promote the trip for the five years he was with the middle school. 

Echeverria said organizing the trip is a big commitment with little compensation. He noted that teachers give up their own spring break for the trip. 

When no teacher stepped up to handle this year’s trip, Alexander and Echeverria decided to find a long-term solution.  

Echeverria said he and Alexander pitched the idea of the education service district turning the trip into a county project to Mark Redmond, the service district’s superintendent. 

Redmond approved the educators request.

“What they feared was going away has actually grown,” he said.  

Echeverria said he and Alexander aimed to sign up 25 students for this year’s trip. Last year, with just Ontario students, he said about 20 enrolled.

Echeverria said that opening up the trip to students from anywhere in the county resulted in more than 40 kids signing up. 

Echeverria said the Washington trip dovetails with the period of American history that eighth-grade students are studying: early colonial history, the Revolutionary War and the founding of the country. 

Echeverria said the trip brings the country’s history to life for students. From a visit to George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon to Ford’s Theater, where John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, traveling to the nation’s capital gives students a combination of cultural and historical learning, Echeverria said. 

The group also visited New York to tour the National September 11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. They also attended a Broadway show. 

“These kids will come out of the theater of Broadway show saying, ‘I’ve never seen anything that amazing in my life,'” Echeverria said. “ You say to yourself, that’s why we do this trip.” 

For many of the kids participating, Echeverria said, the trip is the first time they have visited a big city or traveled by airplane. For others, he said, the trip is the only time they will have the opportunity to visit the East Coast.  

“Maybe if they’re older and have the financial means they might take their families,” he said. “But probably a lot of them never will again, and it’s just cool to be able to provide that opportunity for them.” 

Echeverria said sometimes people ask him about the trip’s focus. Is it about education or sightseeing? He tells people it’s both.

Echeverria said students are far more engaged with the topic of how a bill becomes a law when they’re standing in front of the Capitol in Washington than when they’re sitting in a classroom thousands of miles away. 

The total cost of the trip, which includes airfare, meals and lodging, was a little over $3,000, according to Echeverria. Echeverria said he and Alexander organized fundraisers, involving students who share in the money raised.

Alexander said the best way for students to make money for the trip is to create their own fundraisers. 

Both of his kids paid for their trip by selling homemade salsa, Alexander said. 

Keegan Suzuki, a former student of Alexander’s who attended the trip in 2012 as an eighth –grader, said earning and saving money for the trip was one of the biggest takeaways of the experience. Over a decade later Suzuki, now a graduate student at Oregon State University, has been saving and putting money away for a trip to Japan this summer. 

The Washington trip, Suzuki said, broadened his horizons. Born and raised in Ontario, before the trip, the farthest he had traveled was Montana. 

“Being able to go out and see the whole world,” Suzuki said, “is kind of really cool.” "