In the fall of 2003, I went to check my box for a check on a Friday afternoon. When I got there I found out that my purchase order had not be approved. I was trying to buy a DSLR camera to take pictures of homecoming the next week. My class was going to sell candid pictures to raise money to take a trip in the spring. At the time you could get digital photos developed for less then a quarter.
At the time my wife was in law school and our money was tight. I didn’t know what to do but I had a best buy credit card. I purchased a Canon Digital Rebel for a little over a thousand dollars. I am not sure how many photos we took that week or sold but we raised enough to get us started. A few months later, I took my first school field trip.
We attended the first ever Student Television Network Convention at Universal City in California. I wasn’t very prepared, because I had only taken students to sporting events before then. I knew we wanted to go see a film studio and visit the walk of stars. We left Memphis after spending the whole day at school. The students met me at the airport and soon we were on our way. I debated on transportation. I knew that we could catch a shuttle to our hotel and that we weren’t far from all of the attractions. We got there LAX was over whelming. When I added the number of students we had and the cost of the shuttle, I decided the rent a van. At the time, no one had GPS so I a student with a map. The van was big enough for all of us but I hadn’t considered luggage. We managed to squeeze into the van and fight the late night traffic to the hotel.
We showed up at the very nice hotel where according to the students I announced “We don’t need no valet” in my best southern accent. As soon, we got to the front door we were swarmed with students wanting to interview us. There were students everywhere.
The order of events is kind of a blur now, but here are the highlights. We went to Warner Brothers students where Martin Sheen wished us “Happy New Year”, we saw the sets of the Gilmore Girls, West Wing and ER. We sat in on a rehearsal of the the Drew Carey show and Drew Carey spoke to my students during a break. We kept the students busy all day for the entire trip.
The conference was amazing. There was standing room only in some of the presentations. My student competed in several contests and toured the campus of USC. We skipped a social event one night and were able to get into a taping of the show 2 and Half Men. The music video contest ran extremely late. My students were editing late into the night in a different time zone. They were delirious by the time the contest was over but they finished.
The conference ended on good note with one of my students placing 3rd in a contest.
After the conference ended, we went to Hollywood Blvd to the walk of stars. I made my students bring cameras and put together news stories about Hollywood. We loaded the van on Sunday morning made a quick trip to beach before catching a plane home.
When my students made it back to school they were excited to tell there friends all about the trip. The next year, I took twice as many students. I have been back to California for the conference 5 times. The trip was a recruiting tool for my class and really helped me to grow my program. I took over 400 photos on that trip that I still have on my computer, not bad for 4 day trip.
I am still in touch with most of the students from my trip. A few of them studied film or journalism in college. My last trip to STN, I went at the last minute to Orlando because my students had a video that was being shown there. I took a break one afternoon to visit one of student from my first trip, who is working at the happiest place on earth.
I am not going to say that taking students to the STN convention is better then Disney World, but as far as school trips go it is the best substitute.