Combine students, chaperones and four days in New York City. Mix in dinner at Sylvia’s Soul Food, lunch in Chinatown and meals with an Italian flair. Stir in Amateur Night at the famed Apollo Theater, performances of “Kinky Boots” and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” on Broadway as well as visits to the Tenement Museum, the 9/11 Memorial, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Rockefeller Center. That was the spring break recipe for 20 lucky Santa Fe College students chosen to accompany Master Artist Evans Haile on a cultural tour described by Fine Arts Department Chairperson Alora Haynes as “something kind of magic.”
The ethnically diverse group included six students who had never seen snow and five who had never left our local area. Haynes held a special session on packing before the group left Florida, explaining that “a hoodie is not a coat and flip-flops are not shoes” in the New York winters.
At the Apollo Theater, the group was hosted by Amateur Night Producer Marion J. Caffey, who taught two semesters at Santa Fe College in the 1990s after being sidelined by an injury. Haynes, who was instrumental in bringing Caffey to the college, has remained in touch with him and arranged the visit. “The students were very impressed,” she said. “He gave them the history of how he came to Santa Fe, how rare it is to get help in the theater, and how he’s still grateful. He told them ‘You have to do it,’ whatever your dream is.”
At the Tenement Museum, the students explored the American immigrant experience. Later that same day at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, the students met and talked with cast members of “Kinky Boots” after the play. According to Haynes, “The play carries a message of tolerance, acceptance, gratitude, love and forgiveness, and that message resonated through the whole trip. The kids were really feeling grateful the whole time. They were tolerant and respectful and looking out for each other. To get 20 people on and off a subway is a scary thing! But no one ever complained.”
At the 9/11 Memorial, the group toured the church that displays memorabilia of the disaster. “Everyone was very touched,” Haynes said, “and I think the group came home changed. One of the students even said, ‘I’m going to miss us.’”
To qualify for the trip, students had to have completed at least two semesters at Santa Fe College with a grade point average of 2.85 or higher. They were required to write an essay about what they thought it means to be an ambassador of the college and explain why they wanted to go to New York City. They also had to have $300 of their own money and be able to get to Jacksonville to board the nonstop flight. Students were selected by a committee and chaperoned by Haile, Haynes, Music Professor Lynn Sandefur, Theatre Professor Terry Klenk and Student Life Web Designer Jenny Lackey. The trip was funded by Student Leadership & Activities and the Fine Arts Department.
The 20 students are Michelle Duncan, Simone Eddinger, Janessa Fuller, Victoria Haigh, Neysa Jones, Da Woon Jung, Christina Karafa, Jinhyuck Kim, Shelby Kisshauer, Quanliang Lai, Megan Mahon, Ryan-Olivia McCoy, Kelli McGill, Elaina Nelson, Andrew Netardus, Isabel Teller, Dylan Tyson, Laura Wentz, Savanna Williams, and Ayesha Williams.
For more information, call Alora Haynes at 352-395-5296.