BELLEVILLE – With Remembrance Day approaching, what better way to study Vimy Ridge  in history class than by going to the historic site?
Staff and students at Centennial Secondary School  are raising money to travel to France to take part in the 100th anniversary of the First World War  battle of Vimy Ridge. The school is sending 35 people to be a part of the event that runs from April 5 to 15, 2017.
On the trip, the group will also visit Flanders Fields  in Belgium.
“They get to become a part of history, because this is the only time there’s going to be a 100th anniversary celebration. And they get to see history come alive in front of them,” said Amy McConnell, a teacher at Centennial who spearheaded the trip.
She will be one of four teachers going overseas. She said that when it comes to organizing trips like this one, it is important that the experience will stay with the students for their entire lives. “For me, I really like to expose kids to things that are historical and important and things they should know about. Things that are going to impact their lives.”
Dwayne Woodcock, another teacher at Centennial who will be joining the group, said the trip will benefit students who are learning about Canadian history.
“When you talk about the important parts of the curriculum that we look at, Canadian contributions to World War One and World War Two  are pretty big,” he said. “For us to take the students and show them what we’re teaching is something that is so far beyond what you can read about in a textbook. To witness it is just going to be amazing.”
Sophie McPherson and Madeline Jones are two Grade 1o students who will be on the trip.
“When I told my parents about the trip they were like, ‘Sophie, that’s a great opportunity. You should totally take it.’ Then I started taking history this year and I loved it even more,” said McPherson.
Jones said the trip will give them a far better taste of foreign culture in school then they would ever get in school. “You can try to experience their culture here; we’ve tried to make food that they make there. But it won’t always be the same. To be able to actually go there and do it their way will be really cool.”
The group has been fundraising to offset travel costs. An event called Crossroads: Centennial Secondary School’s Craft and Artisan Show  will be held Saturday.
“As an educator, we see the significant difference that it makes on students if you’re fortunate enough to go on these trips. We see kids come back and they’re just so much more culturally aware,” said Erin Rose, a teacher with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board .
She will be selling handmade scarves at the craft show. The 30-year-old is currently teaching at Centre Hastings Secondary School  in Madoc , but started her teaching career seven years ago at Centennial.
Rose said she thinks the trip benefits younger students in many ways. “It helps them in their personal life. It helps them in their academics. It just makes them more well-rounded to be global-minded citizens, and this trip offers them that opportunity.”
She also said that she hopes everyone who goes on the trip will come back with a better understanding of what the Battle of Vimy Ridge represents in Canadian history.
“One thing I hope for is a greater appreciation of the history and the events that happened at Vimy Ridge, and what our veterans and our families went through – (that they will) truly come back with a greater appreciation for our country they’re blessed to live in and what people had to give up in order for them to have their country.”
Manny Raspberry, the president of Trenton’s Branch 110 of the Royal Canadian Legion , says it’s pleased to see students participate in memorials for veterans and really get to know Canadian history.
“It’s very important for them to know the past. I spent over 40 years with the military and I had the opportunity two years ago to go to Vimy, and it is very emotional. Just to see the names and to see how large the Vimy Monument is is absolutely amazing, and it’ll be something that they will get to appreciate – what our troops went through to capture Vimy, and also the importance of remembering them as we do on Remembrance Day  and through monuments.”
His thoughts were echoed by 70-year-old Wayne Monaghan, who has been working with the legion for over 20 years. “There’s a lot of good men and women that gave their lives up to have the freedom that we have. So I think it’s real important for all kids, not just high school students but all kids. History is a very important part of our culture.”