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Shrewsbury students planning the trip of a lifetime

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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Let’s set aside the budget talk for a moment, an instead look at some of the fantastic opportunities that we are able to offer out students. Coming up in July is an event that is just so amazing I wish I could go along!   I usually like to write all my own material, but they did such a great job on their website, that I think I’ll spare you my usual diatribe and just use their words.

“After completing a year-long United States history course, 18 juniors will bike 325 miles from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA and explore a segment of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century slaves in the United States to escape to free states with the aid of abolitionists who supported their cause.  This bike trip is an extraordinary opportunity for our students to discover a significant period of our nation’s history while experiencing the joy and challenge of long-distance cycling.

The trip begins in downtown Washington, DC and travels along the 180-mile C&O Canal along the north bank of the Potomac River.  Once in Cumberland, Maryland, we will then join the 125-mile Great Allegheny Passage from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Along the way, we will visit many historic and/or cultural sites including the Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, Fallingwater, and many of the National Monuments and museums in the nation’s capitol.  In addition, we will visit at least one college along the route and take a formalized tour of the school.

The Underground Railroad was a secret network organized by people who helped men, women, and children escape from slavery to freedom. It operated before the Civil War (1861-1865) ended slavery in the United States. The Underground Railroad provided hiding places, food, and often transportation for the fugitives who were trying to escape slavery. Along the way, people also provided directions for the safest way to get further north on the dangerous journey to freedom.

Slaves escaping North would often stay in “safe houses” to escape capture.  These houses were owned by people, both black and white, who were sympathetic to the cause.

The people who helped slaves escape were called “conductors” or “engineers.” The places along the escape route were called “stations.” Sometimes escaping slaves were called “passengers.” Sometimes they were called “cargo” or “goods.” Conductors helped passengers get from one station to the next. Sometimes they traveled with escaping slaves all the way from the South, where they had been slaves, to the North or to Canada, where they would be free. Sometimes the conductors traveled only a short distance and then handed the escaping slaves to another helper. Engineers, who were the leaders of the Underground Railroad, helped slaves who were running away by providing them with food, shelter, and sometimes jobs. They hid the slaves from people who were trying to catch them and return them to slavery.

A well-organized network of people, who worked together in secret, ran the Underground Railroad. The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for many men, women, and children. It also helped undermine the institution of slavery, which was finally ended in the United States during the Civil War. Many slaveholders were so angry at the success of the Underground Railroad that they grew to hate the North. Many northerners thought that slavery was so horrible that they grew to hate the South. These people who hated each other were ready to go to war when the time came.”

This is a really amazing opportunity for these kids, started by Assistant Principal Greg Nevader, an avid cyclist in his own right, and I know the students are just so grateful that he’s taken it upon himself to make it all happen this year.

Parents of all of the children have stepped up and picked up a large part of the expense, but they still need to raise a few thousand dollars to make it all happen.  If you want to help out, you can donate right at their amazing website, set up to track the entire trip. Here’s the link http://www.shrewsburyhighschoolbikegroup.com/

There is also a special fund raiser planned with Jenny Boston for March 8th.  Here’s a link to more information on that as well.


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