Every Veterans Day weekend, a group of St. Sebastian’s students pack their bags and head south to our nation’s Capital. The Washington D.C. Trip is both recreational and educational; the weekend offers the boys a chance to bond and have fun, while also giving them an opportunity to see many of the sites they have read about in the classroom. For some Arrows, visiting D.C. is one of their fondest memories from their time at St. Sebastian’s, but when and why did this wonderful tradition begin?
In November of 1983, the senior class embarked on the first ever St. Sebastian’s voyage to Washington D.C. The headmaster at that time, Fr. Riepe, was originally from Baltimore, Maryland and thus invited the students to visit his home, the rustic Hollingsworth Farm. In a January addition of the Walrus, author Dan Sullivan ’84 elaborated on the Class of 1984’s time at Fr. Riepe’s home. “We kept ourselves busy, when not eating, by either watching Shelby Pierce ’84 perform his magic show or playing football.”
The expedition was chaperoned by Dean of Students Morris Kittler, Dean of Studies and Government teacher David Wolk, and Social Studies teacher Henry Lane. The students had excellent tour guides and viewed many monuments and famous sites. This first trip to D.C. occurred during a time when the Vietnam War was still fresh in the hearts and minds of St. Sebastian’s students; a fair number of them had fathers and uncles who had fought for our country in Vietnam. The Class of 1984 visited the recently completed Vietnam Veterans Memorial and gazed up at the many names strewn across the 246-foot wall. The boys meandered through the Memorial in silence for over 40 minutes and nobody spoke until they had returned to their quarters for the night.
The trip offered the students a wonderful opportunity to bond, but essentially the primary goal was to expose the boys to the heart of American Politics. The students spent their final day at the Capitol, visiting with House Speaker Tip O’Neill, touring the national legislative building and witnessing an historic event as the House of Representatives voted on the Equal Rights Amendment. When asked about the significance of his students experiencing American democracy firsthand, Morris Kittler said, you “couldn’t learn that in the classroom!”
And thus a tradition was born. From that year forward, St. Sebastian’s seniors traveled to Washington D.C. However, many Advanced Placement teachers grew concerned with their eldest students missing time. The trip took place annually during college application season and the few days spent out of the classroom were ultimately deemed too detrimental. In Headmaster Burke’s first year at St. Sebastian’s, the tradition was altered so that the members of the junior class made the journey to our nation’s Capital instead of their older counterparts.
From the breathtaking monuments to the incredible historical sites, Washington D.C. serves as the perfect location for St. Sebastian’s students to gain essential outside-the-classroom experience.