Members of the Class of 2018 Explore the Past Through History Camp

Jul 05 2017

Article by Faith Agolia ’18

On June 26th, thirty-four members of the junior class woke up early to arrive at Kellenberg Memorial for the long-awaited history camp. Mr. Bursig, Mr. Cioffi, Miss Frisina, and Mrs. York ushered the students onto the buses, departing at 9:00, as we headed towards Hyde Park, NY, the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Upon our arrival, we entered FDR’s theatre, where many famous figures at the time, such as Churchill and the Queen of England, once sat. After we watched a movie about Roosevelt’s fame and fortune, a park ranger led us on a tour. We saw the famous driveway where FDR engaged in his own form of physical therapy, because of his polio, limping back and forth on crutches from his house to the end of the road.

The park ranger also led us on a solemn walk through FDR’s rose garden, in which FDR and his wife Eleanor are buried. After seeing the gorgeous garden, we walked through the horse stable and entered the Roosevelts’ house. We learned that FDR was a proud Harvard man, as we gazed in upon his childhood bedroom, decorated with crimson banners. We also saw FDR’s old-fashioned telephone, which was directly coded to the White House. Lastly, the park ranger led our group to the museum, where many of FDR’s famous quotes adorn the walls, including his famous words describing Pearl Harbor, “A day that will live in infamy…” One of the most memorable parts of the museum was a portrayal of FDR’s take on a world with four human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Afterwards, we trekked back to the bus and made a pit stop at a local Dairy Queen, where the students indulged in fries and shakes before a long ride to Founders. Upon arrival at Founders, we unloaded the bus and divided the rooms. After a long day of sightseeing, the students were more than happy to relax on kayaks and play some football or Monopoly. Around 8:00, we gathered for a delicious meal of pasta, garlic bread, meatballs, and salad, with a scrumptious dessert of brownies. Once we finished dinner, we cleaned and dried the dishes, sprayed the tables, and played games in the common room before retiring to our rooms at 11:30 p.m.

The next day, we journeyed to Saratoga National Park, the site of the American Revolution’s turning point. A park ranger welcomed us there and ushered us into a theatre, where he showed us a movie about the importance that Saratoga played in the war. After we saw the movie, the ranger appeared in colonial clothes and led us outside onto the patio where he demonstrated how to fire a musket. The ranger explained how the French gifted the Americans with several of these new weapons, so that the Americans would be able to compete with the British. With only twelve steps, a soldier would be able to fire 2-3 shots in a minute. After this thorough explanation, we ate ham, turkey, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with chips, before going on a tour led by Mr. Bursig of special sites within the National Park. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this venture was seeing the monument of Benedict Arnold, the greatest American traitor, and hearing all about his heroic moments and then his downfall. When we finished our walking tour of the battlegrounds, we headed back to Founders for another night of fellowship. After a lovely dinner of chicken française and pasta, we cleaned up the kitchen and gathered around the campfire, where we sang songs, roasted marshmallows, and devoured a tray of brownies. After a fun-filled day, we went up to our rooms to get some rest for an early start on Wednesday, rising at 6:30 a.m. to change the sheets, pack our bags, and have a quick breakfast before leaving.

When we arrived at the West Point visitor parking lot, we got off the bus and perused the gift shop, making purchases of hats, teddy bears, and t-shirts. After this, we boarded the West Point tour bus, which would take us to the main campus for a walking tour of the grounds. Our tour guide presented us to the oldest chapel on the campus, the site of many West Point graduates’ weddings and other services for all religious backgrounds. Our guide introduced us to the motto that each new class of cadets learns, “Honor, Duty, Country,” as well as the famous rivalry, “Go Army, Beat Navy.” After a tour of the beautiful stained glass chapel, with many of the window featuring saints such as St. Michael the Archangel, we saw the grave of General George Patton, a distinguished West Point graduate. Our tour guide also brought us to the bleachers overlooking “The Plain,” which is the field used for ceremonial parades, but no one is permitted to walk across it at any other time. At the western edge of “The Plain,” George Washington is depicted mounting a horse. Then, leading us out of the grounds, our guide pointed out to us the mess hall, where the cadets eat meals, and the academic buildings, where the cadets take their classes, in addition to the many athletic fields. After the tour, the bus dropped us off in the visitor parking lot, where we ate sandwiches and cookies on the benches. When we finished, we boarded our bus for the three-hour drive back to Kellenberg.

On June 29th, the history camp ventured into the historical roots of Long Island at Sagamore in Oyster Bay, home of Theodore Roosevelt. Upon entering Teddy’s house, adorned with moose heads, leopard skins, and elephant tusks, the class discovered that this was, in fact, a real-life man cave. Teddy’s house contains an exquisite “splash-room,” Mrs. Roosevelt’s favorite name for the washroom, which has a fancy shampoo shower dispenser. After touring TR’s house, we ate turkey, ham, chicken, and tuna sandwiches, with brownies and chips, before touring TR’s museum, which has countless famous quotes, television excerpts, and notable moments from his presidency. Upon leaving the museum, we hiked along a trail down to the bay line, absorbing the sunlight, taking pictures, and skipping rocks into the bay. After an enjoyable time by the shore, we made our purchases at the gift shop and hopped onto the bus to visit TR’s grave at Youngs Memorial Cemetery, just a short 10 minutes from his house. After paying our respects, we got back onto the bus and headed back to Kellenberg.

On the last day of our history immersion experience, we wore our awesome history camp T-shirts, which were designed by Mrs. Harnisch and had pictures of Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton on them. We took the 9:26 a.m. train from Mineola to Penn Station, and upon our arrival, we took the subway to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The museum was such a solemn and beautiful experience. As soon as we passed through security, the teachers gave us three hours to explore each exhibit. I first walked past the remains of the Survivor Stairs, off Vesey Street. These stairs provided an escape for those who were stuck inside the collapsing building. I then saw a quote by Virgil on a humongous wall, which said, “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time.” Behind this quote were beautiful sky-colored squares containing the remains of those who perished. The vision of this watercolor background drew emotional responses from everyone on the trip. As we subsequently passed through a room of pictures of the victims, all were saddened, and there was not a dry eye among us. The historical exhibit, however, was by far the best in the museum. Seeing all the television reports when the police officers had little to no information on the attacks was especially horrifying, in addition to the graphic images. What was particularly gripping for me was hearing the audio messages of what went on during the Pennsylvania hijacking, and the phone calls that many of the passengers made to their loved ones. I will never forget seeing the outside memorial where the North Tower once stood, and the two fountains flowing together into the void was such a solemn and humbling experience. Each member of the group gazed into the water, tracing his/her fingers along the indentations of the names of those lost in the attacks, and many said a prayer in remembrance of the victims.

When we left the site, we walked over to Trinity Church, an Episcopal church right off of Wall Street, to see the graves of Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, Francis Lewis (signer of the Declaration of Independence), and Horatio Gates (Revolutionary War general). After passing by a giant monument of Washington, we snapped a few pictures and went back to the subway and then to Penn Station, where we grabbed a bite to eat at Rosie’s Pizza and Pasta, Shake Shack, Moe’s, and other various vendors. After lunch, we took the 3:40 train to Mineola, where we ended our amazing week of adventuring into history. Kate Byrnes, ’18, reflected on the week, saying, “While I was in history camp, it was very special to visit historic sites throughout New York State especially the week before Independence Day [and] specifically the time spent at the 9/11 memorial. Seeing the timeline of the events of 9/11 minute by minute and the beautiful tribute to the victims was especially moving and incredible to behold.”

Kellenberg’s history camp was the perfect conclusion to a year spent delving into the myriad stories and adventures of American History. Throughout my experiences this week, I was able to learn vast amounts of information about the topics we dived into this year. For a history buff like me, the grounds of Saratoga and West Point were truly astounding to witness. I am grateful to have experienced these significant historic sites in my beloved country alongside my classmates. I definitely will never forget everything I saw during these days!