When we think of spring break, trips to the beach, theme parks or to visit family usually come to mind. But 11 students from the Athenian School in Danville were fortunate enough to experience travel far and wide in a unique break experience.
During the Athenian's interim program, which consists of teacher-designed experiences for students outside of the classroom, Alison Blick, Alana Brown, Amanda Hamilton, Melise Knowles, Andrew McBeth, Emma Schwartz, Gianna Scolini, Ania Smith, Tessa Sternber, Charles Thimesch and Nicole Thrower all traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam. During their trip, they diligently put their photography lessons to use and took thousands of photographs. Some of these are now displayed in the exhibit, "Perspectives; Life in Cambodia and Vietnam" at the Village Theatre Art Gallery in Danville.
Leading the travelers were Athenian librarian Jim Sternberg and Niki Stefanelli, a veteran fine arts teacher at Athenian. Stefanelli was inspired by her own visit to Cambodia and Vietnam the previous year with her family. Stefanelli has led trips to three countries in Africa, four countries in Asia, Australia, Canada and Cuba.
"My favorite part of traveling with students is seeing a place through their eyes and understanding what they took away from the trip," Stefanelli said. She is also tentatively planning another trip to Cambodia and Vietnam for next summer.
Master photographer John Rizzo joined the Athenian group. Rizzo, a professional photographer based in New York, spent five days working with students in Cambodia.
The students began their journey in March, spending two weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam. The photographersvisited Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they toured ancient temple ruins and local markets, and even houses on stilts on the Tonle Sap Lake. Capturing photographs as they traveled, they continued to Hoi An, Vietnam, followed by Hanoi and two nights on a junk boat on Halong Bay.
"It was the most fun I've ever had with anyone, at any age in my life. What really struck me about the children at the school was the fact that they were so happy with the barest of essentials and how they were able to teach us how to play again," Ania Smith said of visiting an elementary school in Cambodia.
An opening reception was held at the Village Theatre hon Oct. 11 to celebrate the student photographers.
"Going on this trip has given me the ability to portray a meaningful story of a cultural experience while developing my photographic skills in a way that I never have before," Gianna Scolini said in her speech at the reception.
While students will share their images and words at the exhibit, their artwork will also serve an altruistic purpose. Photos and postcards of exhibit photos are for sale, and proceeds will benefit Sala Phum Bourn Primary School in Cambodia, one of the places the students visited.
The exhibit "Perspectives; Life in Cambodia and Vietnam" runs through Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Village Theatre Art Gallery (233 Front St., Danville_. The gallery is open noon-5 p.m., Wednesday-Friday, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Free admission. Call 314-3400 for details.