The Rocket Flame

Puerto Rican Paradise


After two years of planning, a group of 16 students were ready to begin their six-day journey in Puerto Rico that included snorkeling, hiking, ziplining, touring the capitol, kayaking in a bioluminescent bay, and eating lots of beans.

This was the first trip Ms. Danielle Simchick (Faculty) organized and planned on her own with her students. Ms. Danielle Fox (Faculty) and Mrs. Marie Donahoe (Faculty) accompanied her. Sign-ups began in the Fall of 2017, where 16 students decided to participate in this experience. With two years of planning and fundraising, June 18, 2019 was the day the group of students and faculty would start their travels after saying goodbye to their families and boarding a bus to BWI. 

To prepare for this big trip, students made lots of packing lists and learned about all the places they would be visiting. It is crucial to know the background of all the places that they were visiting.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first, but then after the first day everybody got really comfortable,” said Simchick. 

After the group made it to the airport, they made their way to the plane for the four-hour flight straight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

“The flight was really fun,” said Colby Starr. “It was some of our first time on a plane together.”

After landing, they were picked up by their tour guide on a bus after claiming all their baggage. The students started to experience the hot and humid weather of Puerto Rico, so they stopped at a local beach near the airport and enjoyed a couple of hours in the water before heading to the hotel.

The first full day of Puerto Rico was mostly all on foot. The first stop of the day was zip

lining and hiking. The rest of the day consisted of the students touring San Juan with a tour guide. 

All of the faculty and students gather together for a picture in front of the La Fortaleza in San Juan.

Three more groups accompanied JB on this trip: groups from Kansas, Virgina, and Wisconsin, which made a full bus. Between sightseeing and other activities, the students spent a lot of time getting to know the other groups. 

“My favorite part about the trip was snorkeling,” said Starr (11).

The next day was dedicated to riding a boat out to a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Students spent their time swimming, paddleboarding, and eating lots of food. After some time, a tour guide took all the students out farther in the ocean to snorkel. Most students said was their favorite part was seeing the sea turtles, stingrays, and puffer fish. 

Later that night, on the way home the last stop of the night was to a bioluminescent bay in Vieques. A bioluminescent bay is a bay that has tiny organisms that will light up at night, causing the water to turn bright blue, and students were able to kayak through it.


While touring San Juan, the group takes a picture at one of the pit stops.

After all the water and hiking days, the rest of the trip was spent touring Puerto Rico in San Juan and Ponce. The last day was traveling to Ponce and staying in a new hotel for the night. 

“This experience taught the students how to travel, how to navigate through an airport, how to be on time, how to pack, how to speak and practice Spanish, and most importantly how to be flexible and go with the flow,” said Simchick. 

Even though there was a set schedule, the students learned how to be open to things changing, as well. 

Once the time came on the sixth day, everyone got up and did a little more touring before getting on the bus to head home. Their flight home was a layover, so their first stop was in Orlando for a couple hours before they would make it to BWI. By that time, the students were anxious to be back home and in Mercersburg. 

Late that night after making it to the airport and onto the bus home, the students arrived in the middle of the night with welcoming friends and families waiting upon their arrival. 

With lots of pictures and new friendships, the students will always remember this experience and all hope to do it again with Simchick next year.

October Festivities

October Festivities

Proud To Be An American



There are so many diverse countries around the world – China, Puerto Rico, Argentina, the UK (also known as Great Britain), and so on. Some people from these countries come to America to start a new life. As fate would have it, Mrs. Marie Donahoe (Faculty), came from the UK to America to continue teaching students.


Donahoe lived in York City, which is in the northeast of the UK. During her time there, she worked at a Further Education College in Grantham to teach learning support students. Donahoe and her husband lived in the UK for about ten years until they both decided to come to America.


“My husband was from Chambersburg and when we got married we were living in the UK,” said Donahoe. “Then he decided that he missed all of the cheeseburgers, hotdogs, baseball, football. So he told me ‘Why don’t we give this a try?’ and I agreed.”


Donahoe lived in the United States for six years before she decided to go get the citizen’s award.


“I like it here in the United States,” Donahoe explained. “I want to remain here and I want to work here. I love teaching and I love the job that I currently have. I love doing what I do for a living. I did not want to put my job into jeopardy by not becoming a citizen.”


On the day that Donahoe went to take her citizen’s test, she had the feeling of “butterflies in the stomach.”


“I was a little bit nervous mostly because you are in the hands of the government. I had to pay money in order to apply for the citizenship award, which isn’t cheap,” Donahoe said. “For me to blow that in an interview answering, ‘Who takes over for Mr. Trump if he was to resign?’ would be very frustrating.”


Besides being anxious about the test, Donahoe said that she was happy to have passed.


“My citizen’s test was actually fun. The lady who interviewed me was really nice and easy going. She wanted to know quite a bit about England and Britain,” said Donahoe. “She gave me the test and she asked me six questions in all which I guess I got all correct, so by the time I got to the seventh question she was like ‘You’re good’ and put the test away. For the most part, they were very straight-forward questions and it helped that I had some practice tests to help me study.”


Even though Donahoe is legally considered as a United States citizen, she sees America as a new home that has different aspects of life compared to the UK.  


“The UK and the United States are pretty much similar in landscape and cultures. The major differences are that here, things are very spread out whereas the UK is a little bit compact,” Donahoe explained. “The difference between the rural areas is that there is a lot of public transport, such as bicycles, trains, and a lot of walking in the UK, unlike in the United States where people normally drive to get around. Students who go to school will usually walk to school, but sometimes they do take buses on occasion.”


According to Donahoe, the school structures are alike in the UK and in the United States, but the requirements for graduation are different.


“Kids can leave high school at the age of sixteen and go onto college, which is like a community college here, if I were to compare it to the United States,” Donahoe said. “You basically end up graduating with the equivalent of a GED.”


Schools in the UK end at a later time and the education being taught are different compared to the United States.


“The education over there [in the UK] is career-oriented, whereas here it is subject-oriented,” said Donahoe. “When you go to college, you have to take the liberal arts, whereas in the UK you do not have to do that. For instance, for my degree, I didn’t have to take math classes or psychology classes. Timewise, the UK starts at around nine in the morning because they have a national curriculum and then we usually end at around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon.”


According to Donahoe, the food in the United States is unhealthy compared to the UK because we have more greasy and fatty foods. Her all-time favorite snack that she misses is the fish and chips. Food in the UK is considered healthier because their foods are made from local ingredients.


Being a part of the UK culture, Donahoe has aspects that she will cherish forever and try to restore in her family here in the United States.


“I will miss the tradition of Sunday lunch in the UK. Sunday lunch was when your family came together at one person’s house and you would have a lunch that would be similar to Thanksgiving in the United States,” Donahoe said. “This would occur every Sunday. When we came to the United States, I tried to keep one aspect that came from my life in the UK and add it to the life I have now in the United States.”

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