Spanish students take educational trip to Puerto Rico

A group of Warren County School District students recently completed a week-long educational trip to Puerto Rico. Here, they are pictured at the El Yunque National Forest.

Students and instructors from Eisenhower, Warren, and Youngsville high schools recently completed a week-long educational trip to Puerto Rico.

Warren Area High School Spanish teacher Jewel Rozanski organizes trips every two years to Spanish-speaking countries for county students.

This year, the trip took the students to San Juan, Puerto Rico. San Juan is well-known for its beaches, but the students did much more than hang out on the beach.

“It was a blast,” said Owen Balas, who will be a senior at WAHS in the fall. “It seemed like one long day, we were always going somewhere and doing something.”

On their first full day on the island, the students visited El Yunque National Forest. They also got to swim in a freshwater waterfall and visit one of the world’s top coffee plantations.

“The plantation was only about the size of a house garage,” Rozanski said. “The tour was given by a former physician who gave that up to make coffee.”

Also on the agenda was a walking tour of an art museum located in Ponce, which is across the island from San Juan. To get from place to place, the group took a bus. Breakfast and Dinners were included as part of the trip. The Community Foundation of Warren County paid for the groups’ lunches.

The group also got to take cooking lessons to learn how to make native cuisine.

“The main dish we learned to make was called mofongo,” said Warren student Troy Shattuck. “It was made up of chicken, steak, lettuce, tomatoes, and yuca.”

Cooking native foods was just part of the immersion into hispanic culture. The group also learned how to salsa dance.

“They taught you how to do it by yourself first, then a partner was added,” said Eisenhower student Neil Rossman. “It ended up meshing really well.”

The group said Shattuck was the best dancer.

The students also got to spend some time snorkeling in the ocean. Tarpan, barracuda, sea urchins, and several other kinds of fish were spotted.

The most common wildlife the group came across were iguana and coqui. Wild chickens and stray cats were also abundant.

The most well-known sites the group visited were the Ponce de Leon Cathedral and the Old San Juan Military Fort.

“The military fort was really cool to see,” said WAHS will-be senior Adam Irwin. “The Spanish used it to keep intruders out.”

Irwin also said the culture on the island surprised him.

“I was really surprised at how developed it was,” he said. “The tourists were intertwined with the natives. It was very Americanized.”

Communication with the native people was “fairly easy”, according to Balas.

“Almost everyone was bi-lingual,” he said. “But we’ve all learned enough Spanish in class to communicate at at least a basic level.”

The group’s trip to the United States territory came at a very interesting time, as Puerto Rico is currently taking steps that could lead them to become the 51st state.

“There were signs everywhere that said ‘Statehood or Independence,'” Balas said. “You could tell they really want something to be done.”

“They’ve been in a recession for years,” said Youngsville High School teacher Amy Rossman, who attended the trip. “It’s a financial crisis, and they know they either need to separate or become a state soon.”

Everyone in the group said the trip was a great success.

“I would totally recommend going (to Puerto Rico),” Rozanski said. “It was so beautiful, and everyone had a great time.”