Students’ D.C. Trip Was True Learning Experience

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Ramon Centeno finished his journey through Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx with a memorable trip. He was one of 40 students from 19 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese to participate in an overnight trip to Washington, D.C., June 7-8.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. I wish everyone could have gone on this trip. I’ll treasure it forever. I learned more about my faith and enjoyed meeting the other Catholic high schools students and connecting with them,” Centeno told CNY. He will study policy and public affairs at the University of Albany.

This was the second year the archdiocese’s Superintendent of Schools office coordinated a trip to Washington, for student leaders in the archdiocese.

“I’d tell my friends to take this opportunity as quick as possible. It’s a great thing to do and I have no regrets doing it,” said Matt Guarneri, a rising senior at John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen.

Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, joined the students on the trip. He announced the visit to the students at the second annual Catholic Leadership Conference at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture March 5, which included a panel discussion with more than 250 students from 35 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. Students were nominated for the Washington trip by their faculty adviser.

“These students are leaders not only in their schools but in their communities,” Dr. McNiff said. “As we visited the Museum of the Bible and the U.S. Capitol it was affirming to experience the deep interest of the students in the importance of civic engagement and see their drive to learn more. I am confident that they will bring back what they learned to their peers to help better their communities.”

The students attended Mass celebrated by Father Martino Choi at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Father Choi is parochial vicar of St. Patrick parish in Rockville, Md., in the Archdiocese of Washington.

“The priest was incredible. He was so passionate, young and related to us,” said Marymount School of New York rising senior Leslie Roman. “He was honest with us in saying we’re teenagers trying to figure out part of our identity.

“He talked to us about how incredible it is what we’re doing and how we can make a difference by readily accepting Catholicism and how it plays in our lives. It’s something we should be proud of. He said we can be student leaders in not only our schools but in our daily lives.”

After having dinner at the university, the students toured the Jefferson, Lincoln and Vietnam memorials.

“You heard about the war and read the numbers,” Centeno said. “When you see the names and think about the lives, it really hits you. We stayed way longer than we were supposed to (at the Vietnam Memorial). It was a little surreal to put the names to the numbers and look at the sacrifices these people made.”

The next day, the students took a guided tour of the Museum of the Bible, a 430,000-square-foot museum with biblical artifacts and objects that opened last year.

“It gave us a new perspective,” Centeno said. “ I’ve never seen the impact (the Bible) had on society as a whole. We were listening to what our tour guide was saying. This is information we should have known and we didn’t. It was a great experience.”

Following the museum, the students visited the U.S. Capitol, where Rep. Daniel Donovan, R-NY, met and talked with the visitors. Donovan represents the 11th Congressional District of New York in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

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