Ambitious travel plan takes shape

Preparing for a  personal styling evening in Wanaka on Saturday  to  raise funds for a Mount Aspiring College English department trip to New York and Washington are teacher Gena Bagley (front left) and pupil Caitlin Lumsden (17) with  fellow pupils (back, from left) Sam Hadida (17), Ella Glynn (16) and Kasper Humphrey (17). Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Preparing for a personal styling evening in Wanaka on Saturday to raise funds for a Mount Aspiring College English department trip to New York and Washington are teacher Gena Bagley (front left) and pupil Caitlin Lumsden (17) with fellow pupils (back, from left) Sam Hadida (17), Ella Glynn (16) and Kasper Humphrey (17). Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.

As a Wanaka secondary school teacher, mother of two and in-demand wedding make-up artist, Gena Bagley is used to pressure.

However, her latest project - raising $36,000 in five months to take 18 teenagers to the United States - has taken managing tight timeframes to a new level.

''It's a massive undertaking ... it's incredibly ambitious,'' Ms Bagley (33) acknowledged.

While most overseas school trips allowed up to 18 months to raise funds, it ''seemed like the perfect time'' for Mount Aspiring College's English department to embark on an international adventure this spring.

''The department is doing incredibly well and this seemed like a way to further extend our success, understanding and engaging in the ideas that underpin the English learning and literature.''

Her year 12 and 13 pupils loved the idea when she pitched it last month and, after a meeting with parents, plans quickly ''snowballed'' into a fully-fledged travel itinerary taking in the cultural and historical highlights of New York and Washington.

The pupils - who leave on their 10-day trip at the end of September with Ms Bagley and music teacher Mathew Doyle as chaperones - immediately got into full fundraising mode.

''The first weekend we came up with the idea, we were already out there,'' Kasper Humphrey (17) said.

''The whole fundraising experience has been quite beneficial ... it's provided a nice opportunity to get to know the younger ones.''

Profits from cleaning toilets, ''gigateering'' [promotion work] for Wanaka's Gigatown team, rubbish collections, sausage sizzles, babysitting and Ms Bagley doing the makeup for the school formal have all contributed to the travel fund.

A personal styling evening this Saturday at The Venue in Wanaka will be the group's first major event aimed at boosting the coffers considerably.

Ms Bagley and her pupils know they have no small task ahead of them in meeting the trip's big budget, ''but we're going to get there'', Ella Glynn (16) said.

''Nothing's going to stop us,'' Ms Bagley agreed.

''I'm a firm believer that if you set your mind to something then you achieve your goal and I hope that's rubbing off on these guys.''

The tour programme will include Times Square, Harlem, Ground Zero, the Empire State Building, the White House and Smithsonian museums.

''It's so exciting,'' Kasper said.

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz