Trip of a Lifetime
Students visit Yellowstone National Park
By Melissa Klaric / The Herald
You had to be there, they said.
Three Farrell High students struggled to find the words to describe their four-day trip last month to Yellowstone National Park.
“Beauty,” the kind only an artist can portray.
“Amazing,” the majestic kind that’s part of a landscape unlike any in western Pennsylvania.
“Wild,” as in wildlife like bison, bear and wolf.
“At any moment of any part of the day, where ever we looked, the scenery was just beautiful,” said Christian Walker, a 2016 Farrell graduate. “It was like what you would see in movies. It was just amazing. As soon as we would leave our cabins, it was just mountains and stuff.”
Walker, along with Isaiah Crosby and Michael McQueen, who will be seniors this fall, were chosen by Farrell teachers and administration to visit the nation’s first national park, the home of Old Faithful.
The trip was made possible through a partnership of the Hope Center for Arts and Technology in Sharon and Park Journeys Inc., a non-profit organization formed in 2012 with the purpose of sending local students to Yellowstone who otherwise would not have had the chance to go.
But that doesn’t mean the trip was a gift, said Tom Roberts, executive director of HopeCAT.
“They did consistent work throughout the program,” he said. “So they earned it.” They “earned” it by attending HopeCAT’s first-ever class – ceramics – three times a week after school this past year at Penn State Shenango in Sharon.
The young men beamed as they joked and reminisced about the trip with their chaperones, Roberts ad Christian Kuharik, their ceramics instructors.
“We had the opportunity … to travel to Yellowstone, live as a family in cabins, prepare our own meals every day, and enjoy Yellowstone learning about the wildlife, ecosystem and nature,” Roberts said. The HopeCAT group stayed in Gardiner, Mont., with a group of students from Cleveland.
And enjoy it they did.
The favorite part of the trip for McQueen – who hopes his new nickname “Montana Mike” will stick – was when he got up close and personal with a bison.
“I didn’t think animals would be as much fun as they were, and then I saw the bison,” McQueen said. “It started running at me, then they started pulling me away and I was like, ‘No I love it, and it loves me.’ “
The running joke throughout the trip was that “Montana Mike” wanted to hug a bear and ride a bison.
And while the travelers thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the trio were like sponges as they soaked up new lessons from the outdoor classroom that is Yellowstone.
“When we went there, she (the park ranger) told us one rule: Do not pick flowers or plants because you have to preserve the wildlife and flowers,” Crosby said. “There were many types of flowers. All different colors – blue, purple, yellow, even some green.”
Crosby marveled over watching a pack of wolves emerge from their den on the side of a ridge and said he was fascinated by fish in their natural habitat. “We saw a lot of fish. We actually saw how they protect each other. How they fight for their babies and all.”
Yellowstone National Park covers almost 3,500 square miles in three states – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
“I remember our tour guide said for them to persuade the government to make Yellowstone a national park, they got an artist to draw out what Yellowstone looked like, and it was amazing,” Walker said. “They couldn’t believe how amazing it was. You have to be there to actually embrace it.”
“I’m blessed to even be here,” Walker said he told the tour guide. “I never thought pursuing pottery for fun would have me end up at Yellowstone and would have me meet all the people that I’ve met.”
About the Hope Center
The Hope Center landed a $2.6 million state grant last October and is working with the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio to raise funds to match it so it can renovate the former Sacred Heart building at 115 Anson Way, Sharon.
The center is slowly taking shape. When the first floor is finished – and Executive Director Tom Roberts said it should be done in the fall – classes for adults and youth will be held there. For now, the center has partnered with Penn State Shenango, which donated the use of its ceramics lab and materials for classes.
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