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SDHS students visit Spain

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From left are Ana McCoy, Jessica Toller, Alyssa Benecke, Bailee Carmon, Rhionna Sims, Bailey Crane, Meg McCoy, Cathy Brainerd, Diamond Mitchell, Mitzi Johnson and Maddie Howell touring a federal government fortress in Madrid, Spain.

For 34 years, Soddy-Daisy High Spanish teacher Cathy Brainerd dreamed of taking her students to Spain. Finally, this summer she and nine of her students had the opportunity to experience a life-changing trip to Spain and Morocco.

“It’s a huge opportunity for the kids,” said parent Ana McCoy, who also went on the trip. “It’s not just about seeing new places. They get a new viewpoint on life and are more willing to take new challenges and see new opportunities.”

The rising juniors and seniors who went had just finished Spanish 3 and got the chance to practice their skills in Madrid, Grenada, Toledo and Costa del Sol in Spain for 10 days, during which time the group also visited nearby Morocco. During the course of the trip they traveled by subway, ferry, plane and bus.

It was somewhat difficult to communicate with the Spanish natives, said Maddie Howell, but the students were able to get by since most people there knew English.

Megan McCoy said she most enjoyed the freedom of exploring the beach town of Costa del Sol.

“The beach is so pretty, and there’s a cool breeze,” Bailee Carmon said of the coastal town, also one of her favorite destinations. “I loved the markets. There’s so much to bargain for.”

She brought back an engraved leather purse from the Costa del Sol market.

“I liked Toledo because it had that Italy or Greece touch to it,” said Rhionna Sims, who also enjoyed buying cheap Moroccan oil for her hair while in Morocco. “I experienced hands-on culture.”

She described the culture as very relaxed. One difference she noticed is that there were very few trash cans in Spain, where they recycle everything.

“The McDonald’s was like a J. Alexander’s,” Rhionna said.

“You never saw anyone eating and walking,” added Megan.

Alyssa Benecke said she liked visiting the second-oldest synagogue in Europe, located in Toledo. Plaza Mayor in Madrid with its street performers was a highlight of the trip for Bailey Crane.

Brainerd said she will be taking another group of students to Spain next year during spring break, and McCoy will be chaperoning a separate group on a similar trip to Spain next summer. She said she is considering opening up the opportunity to students from other schools as well.