On Friday, June 8, five West Tisbury seventh graders arrived back at their Island homes after a weeklong trip that taught them about cultures in different parts of the country.
The trip was sponsored by an anonymous donation to the M.V. Film Festival, and was part of the West Tisbury School’s “project period.” During this one-week period, classes at the school are replaced with electives like cooking, horseback riding, yoga, and golf, along with a special trip that is different each year. This is the first year the M.V. Film Festival has funded a trip for the school.
The group flew into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to start the first leg of their trip. They visited the Goethe Elementary School, where students saw a history fair and learned about immigration. After their stay in Chicago, the group headed for Kentucky.
“We are so privileged to live on Martha’s Vineyard,” said Annabelle Brothers, one of the students on the trip. “We are lucky to be so fortunate.”
Annabelle said she learned a lot about politics and culture when she was in Kentucky. “I liked asking people questions about their community and what it’s like to live there,” said Annabelle.
Jack Lionette, another student on the trip, said he will never take his situation at home for granted. “We have so many opportunities that most people around the country could never dream of having,” said Jack. “To be able to come home to a stable household with two loving parents, that is something very special.”
Brian Ditchfield, artistic director of the M.V. Film Festival and a chaperone on the trip, said he was fascinated and impressed by how the students interacted with people they met along the way. “The kids were just so adventurous and willing to try anything,” said Ditchfield. “We didn’t need to do much supervising; the kids just led the way, and we had all sorts of adventures.”
Ditchfield said many of the students at Goethe School have suffered through gang violence and grew up in poverty-stricken areas. “These kids have been through a lot, but children find common ground through playing. They start to realize that they aren’t much different from people all across the country,” said Ditchfield.
According to Ditchfield, the focus of the trip wasn’t just on cultural and economic disparities.
“One thing we discovered while we were in Chicago was that, whether you are in a rural area or a massive city, we all have so much in common,” said Ditchfield. “The kids are just kids, they like to run around and play games with each other and just have a good time.”
The students at Goethe School are 87 percent Hispanic, in stark contrast to the largely Caucasian population of the West Tisbury School. Despite racial and ethnic differences, Ditchfield said, the kids acted like it was a normal day at school.
“They really thrived in that environment where everything was brand-new,” said Ditchfield. “That ability to be open to any experience is something that is unique in this group.”
Danielle Mulcahy, a filmmaker at the M.V. Film Festival and another chaperone on the trip, said she never underestimates a child’s ability to grasp the weight of any situation. “I think it is just amazing they were able to so immediately understand the significance of what they were doing,” said Mulcahy. “They really recognize, ‘Wow, I am a minority now,’ and that is an eye-opening realization.”