When French teacher, Paula Saillard, switched schools from the affluent school district of Cherry Hill, New Jersey to a school in Camden, one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in America, she made a vow that she was going to make sure that her new students had the same opportunities as her old ones did.
Not that it would be easy. The financial situation of kids in Cherry Hill is a lot different than those of the students at Woodrow Wilson High School, in Camden. In Camden, many of the kids come from impoverished backgrounds, and several have never traveled much further than their own city limits. But they have the same dreams of seeing the world, and when she arrived, Saillard was determined to provide them an equally rich education. This was a challenge that would present itself fully when she thought about leading an enrichment trip to Paris.
In Cherry Hill, Saillard was able to take her students to Paris every other year. It was a trip that most parents were able to pay for. “When I was hired in Camden, I knew immediately that I would offer a trip to Paris for my students,” the teacher told Uproxx. “They need the same experiences to learn and grow as other students. But they just can’t afford to pay for a trip to Europe.”
So she began to look for other outlets and resources in order to make the trip happen. It had been over 20 years since the high school had been able to send students abroad, but Saillard knew she had to make it work. She sent out hundreds of emails looking for sponsorship, and she set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money needed for the airfare, passports, hotels, and museum entry fees.
“Going to Paris is a dream for my students,” Saillard said. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Europe and Paris, an incredible city full of culture, fashion, and great food!
The students couldn’t be more excited about the trip. And Saillard has a plethora of activities planned so that they’ll get a well-rounded view of Parisian life. “We will be visiting the Eiffel Tower, taking an Open Bus tour around Paris, and taking a walk down the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe,” she said. “My students will walk around Montmartre and spend time in the Louvre, too. I also have planned a visit to La Défense where we will go up La Grande Arche, see a French movie, and do a Scavenger Hunt inside a large supermarket.”
It’s the trip of a lifetime for many of her students, but one that won’t be possible if they don’t meet their financial goals in the next couple of weeks. “We are now at 25,000,” said Saillard. “We need $40,000.”
And the deadlines to book flights and hotels for the April trip are approaching fast. So far, donations have been from individual donors giving small amounts, and Saillard is touched by the outpouring of support from the community. Having been a public school teacher for over 30 years, Saillard loves teaching and being able to give her students this opportunity means so much to her.
“I feel so lucky to have loved what I do each day. Not everyone can say that,” she said. “It is an innate feeling for me to teach. It is my passion to teach. I don’t feel whole if I am not teaching during the school year.”
You can support the Camden students’ trip by visiting GoFundMe!