Low-income students will have an opportunity to take a free trip this summer to learn more about U.S. history and the federal government.

The Boys & Girls Club of Janesville will send 31 local middle-schoolers on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., from July 16 to 20.

Under a tentative itinerary, students will tour George Washington University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center, Arlington National Cemetery, several memorials and other sites. Students will also have photo opportunities at the White House, the Supreme Court and Library of Congress, said Sara Stinski, executive director of the club.

From 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, students will have packed schedules so they “see as much as possible,” she said. They’ll also eat at fun restaurants and do team-building exercises.

“One of the pieces of our mission at the Boys & Girls Club is making sure all the kids of Janesville have experiences that will help them grow,” Stinski said. “We see this as one of those really exciting, formative experiences.”

The scholarships funding the trip come from a Herbert H. Kohl Charities Foundation grant, which is allowing several state Boys & Girls Clubs to take the trip at different times throughout the year.

This is the first year the foundation has provided the grant for the Janesville club, and it will likely fund the trip in coming years, Stinski said.

She said some people have been under the mistaken impression that because the trip is funded through “scholarships,” good grades are necessary for eligibility. That’s not true.

Officials want to make sure those who take the trip have a history of good behavior at their schools, but the students’ needs are more important than grades, Stinski said.

“The D.C. trip has been happening at our middle schools for a while now, but the cost is prohibitive for many families in our area,” she said.

To be eligible for the trip, students must join and remain active Boys & Girls Club members through the summer, which costs $30. They must also complete “CareerLaunch” sessions at the club that help them determine their skills and goals so they can better plan their futures, Stinski said.

The requirements are in place so students take the experience seriously and club staff has time to bond with thems before they spend a week together, Stinski said.

The club will give a presentation Wednesday to inform parents and answer questions about the trip. Applications for the trip are due by 6 p.m. Thursday, April 26.

The club will select 31 students, along with five male and five female alternates, and notify them by May 2. Alternates usually end up going on the trip, as well.

Club staff and Janesville School District volunteers will chaperone. Brightspark Travel is planning and managing the trip’s itinerary.

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