Will This be Ms. Acerra’s Last Washington Trip?

By Leah Twerell

Ever since Ms. Acerra, the middle school social studies and civics teacher, told some of us last year that she would be stepping down from her long-time position as organizer of the eighth grade Washington D.C. trip, we have been speculating: Is this Ms. Acerra’s last Washington trip?

If you want to know the answer, keep reading this Q&A with Ms. Acerra … 

Q: When did you get the idea to plan all the Washington trips? 

A: The school was going to Washington long before I got here in 1993. I originally went as chaperone when there was an available spot while teaching fourth grade. I became more and more involved with the trip when I moved up to middle school in 2008. I started running it in 2012.   

Q: How have the trips changed over the years? 

A: Before I ran the trip, we mostly went to the Smithsonians, the Capitol, Arlington, and Mount Vernon. Now we go to those places as well as many more. Places like the Holocaust Museum, Twilight Tattoo, Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour, and the Pentagon. We are constantly on the move. I try to pack in as much as possible.

Q: How many students and chaperones go on the trip? 

A: Anywhere from 20 to 60 students, (this year it is 29) and six chaperones, including an administrator.

Q: What will we do during the Washington trip? 

A: Capitol tour, monuments, museums, and lots and lots of restaurants. There are a few reservations that do not open up until 90 days before the trip, so our itinerary is not set yet. Each 8th grader will research a building, monument, or memorial and then be the tour guides while we are there. We have had the same bus driver for the last 10 trips – his name is actually Peter and our bus company is Peter Pan.

Q: How many days will it be? 

A: Three days and two nights. We will leave around 6:30am on Tuesday, June 6, and return around 10:30pm on Thursday, June 8 

Q: What was the most memorable trip you have ever had, some stories you will never forget? 

A: There have been some really special classes that made our job so simple. The trip is an incredible bonding experience between the kids and the chaperones. Some great encounters have been seeing Ben Stiller filming a scene from Night at the Museum in the Reflecting Pool by the Lincoln Memorial, having a personal tour of the Capitol building with our then-Congressman Frank Pallone, watching President George Bush land in his helicopter on the White House lawn and waving to us, emotionally interacting with a bus load of World War II veterans at the Marine Memorial – Iwo Jima, meeting an actual Holocaust survivor who was on one of the identification cards at the Holocaust Museum, running into and taking a selfie with Senator Cory Booker, the time Vice President Pence stopped to shake one of our kids’ hands while walking through the Rotunda at the Capitol, and being on TMZ last year mistakenly photobombing an interview with Congresswoman Omar. But my all-time favorite memory was seeing Joan Jett, who was visiting a war memorial with her father. Two of our students recognized her and before we knew it, she was singing “I Love Rock and Roll” with our entire class while she played the air guitar.

Q: How do you plan it? 

A: Planning begins in July with the hotel and the bus. I have a checklist for each month to make specific reservations. Some are time-sensitive. Fundraising usually starts in June with a carwash at the end of 7th grade and goes until April of 8th grade.

Q: How many days do you have to plan it? 

A: With fundraising, planning, and teaching into it, Washington encompasses most of my year. 

Q: How many people help plan it?
A: Mrs. Covert is my saving grace who selflessly devotes her time to helping me. Liza Flynn is my “Mom in Charge” of fundraising this year. She is invaluable!

Q: How much money does the 8th grade have to get to go on the Washington trip? 

A: $675 per student 

Q: Why do you like to go on the Washington trip? 

A: I went to a small K-8 school similar to BBES and fondly remember my Washington trip in 8th Grade. Over the years, it has become my passion. I feel like it is a time when the classes really bond. It is one of their final memories of BBES and a culmination of all of their years here. For some, this will be their only trip to our nation’s capital. I want it to be an experience to last a lifetime. 

Q: Are you ever going to stop planning the Washington trips? 

A: I can’t imagine not running the trip while I am still teaching. 

Q: Will this year be your last Washington trip? If not, when? 

A: Within the next 2 or 3 years.

Q: What will the future 8th graders do when you are gone?

A: Hopefully someone will take over the trip. If not, the school could hire a tour guide company to do the leg work. Other area schools use a tour guide company from Freehold.

There you have it BBES! this will not be Ms. Acerra’s last Washington trip!

Photos courtesy of Ms. Acerra.

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