By Travis Gulbrandson
The Vermillion City Council has pledged financial support for a high school trip to Vermillion’s sister city in Germany.
On Nov. 4 the council voted to contribute $150 per student up to 10 students for the Vermillion High School German Club’s trip to Ratingen, Germany, which will take place next year.
“The plan is to (have) a long-term exchange program with high school students in Ratingen,” said German instructor Kami Dibley.
The program is called the German American Partnership Program, which is sponsored by the US Department of State and the German Foreign Ministry.
Five sophomores and juniors will be going, and each of them are being asked to put $3,300 toward the trip, although Dibley said that amount could decrease based on fundraising.
“The biggest hurdle is always airfare,” she said. “The cheapest airfare that we can find right now is somewhere between $1,600 and $1,700. It’s about the time when we need to start putting money down for that.”
The students will be in Germany a total of three weeks.
“For the first two weeks that we are in Germany, we are going to be in Ratingen,” Dibley said. “The kids will be staying with host families, individuals with their own families so they won’t be doubling up.”
They also will be attending school in Ratingen for 10 days.
During the third week, students will be traveling through other areas of the country, Dibley said.
“It doesn’t seem fair to us to ask for help for that because the whole purpose is that this is to bolster and build partnerships with our sister city,” she said.
Michael Deninger, an adult volunteer in the German class, will be a trip chaperone this spring.
Deninger went to Germany as a Vermillion High School student in 2007, and he said he hopes the current students will have an experience similar to his.
“I gained a lot of experience and personal growth, and from that I decided I would go to SDSU and proceed in global studies, which was one of my degrees,” he said.
Deninger went on to study at the University of Heidelberg, and is now in the process of enrolling in the Peace Corps.
Dibley said it’s been “a while” since VHS students have made the trip to Ratingen, a partnership that was founded through the efforts of USD professor Benno Wymar, a native of Germany.
“I feel like we need to refresh this, get a young face on the partnership,” Dibley said. “I don’t know how many of you follow German-American politics, but it’s shaky. That breaks our hearts as German teachers and educators because we have had such wonderful experiences, and Germany and the US have been such allies for so many years.
“It is personal relationships that will help us get past those rocky times, I think,” she said.
Because of the exchange nature of the program, students from Ratingen will come to Vermillion in 2015.
“These sorts of programs kind of get rolling,” Dibley said. “I anticipate the next time I take students in two years, we’ll probably have a bigger number.”
The city council moved unanimously to support the trip, and Mayor Jack Powell said he will write a letter for the VHS students to deliver to the Ratingen town council.
“I think it would be nice to keep that tie,” Powell said.
The VHS German Club’s trip to Ratingen will take place from May 24 through June 15.