Students at Southeast Washington, D.C.’s Charles Hart Middle School are trying to raise money to visit China this summer.
The fundraising campaign will help 25 students from the Ward 8 school travel to and tour the Middle Kingdom from July 5-13.
“Taking this trip will not only make the students see the possibilities of seeing the world but the parents get to see [that experience] is possible as well,” said William McMurtrey, an eighth grade U.S. History teacher at Hart who is facilitating the trip. “Less than five of the parents of the students have been out of the country and many of the parents and the students have never even left the DMV [District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia area].”
He said the trip will be educational and transformative for the students who have a chance to go. Students attend Hart from the sixth through eighth grades and primarily go to Ballou High School.
“We are located in Southeast Washington, D.C., where we serve students from 11 to 14 years old,” McMurtrey said in a fundraising letter earlier this year. “We believe students living in a poorer community should have the same opportunities to explore the world as children in more affluent areas and that their status should not prevent them from embracing all that the world has to offer.”
Hart’s student demographics are 98 percent Black, two percent Latino and zero percent White. The school is struggling academically, with 55.7 percent of its students in math and 51.5 percent in English/Language Arts not meeting expectations of their grade level on the 2015-2016 Partnership for the Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers exam. Ninety-nine percent of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunches.
Nevertheless, the school is beefing up its academic offerings and offers clubs in robotics, chess, drama, and creative writing with a substantive tutoring program. The school is known for its winning athletic programs in football and basketball.
Alice Deal Middle School has operated a travel program for years, and the District’s new chancellor, Antwan Wilson, said he is a supporter of student programs in foreign countries.
The cost of the trip is approximately $3,500 per student, and McMurtrey notes that Hart’s students are financially challenged. The total cost of the trip is $74,000, but said the community can help raise those funds.
“You may host an event or fundraiser where the proceeds will sponsor one or more students,” he said. “You can also give a donation in any amount that fits your budget and resources.”
McMurtrey said that contributions for the students’ trip will be accepted until April 14; checks to support the trip are tax-deductible and should be made out to the D.C. Treasury in care of Charles Hart Middle School – China 2017.