ATWOOD — Almost 60 Atwood-Hammond/Arthur-Lovington seniors will board charter buses Saturday afternoon to begin an adventure that will take them to the nation’s capital.

It will begin a five-day trip that is packed with sight-seeing and riding. Lots of bus riding.

“We’re all very excited,” senior Sarah Rafferty said. “We have a lot planned for this trip.”

Each day typically starts between 7 and 9 a.m. and ends between 9 and 10 p.m.

The senior class trip has been a tradition in Arthur going back to the 1950s, according to Principal Steffanie Seegmiller, but the last two classes at ALAH were unable to participate due to the pandemic.

Fundraising started when the current seniors were seventh-graders with the sale of items ranging from laundry detergent and trash bags to discount cards. The biggest money-raiser, Rafferty said, was a hog raffle — two winners were selected, with each winning half a hog.

One of the stops Rafferty is looking forward to the most comes Sunday morning at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

“It’s one of the only zoos in the United States with pandas,” Rafferty said. “I think a lot of my classmates are excited for the pandas.”

Rafferty also looks forward to touring the Holocaust Museum — one of a number of museums and memorials the group will tour, ranging from the FDR Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the International Spy Museum.

Other stops include a cruise on the Potomac River, a paddle-boat tour, a tour of former President George Washington’s mansion at Mt. Vernon, a Ferris wheel ride, a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and en route home, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, Pa.

The bleary-eyed group will home between 1 and 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Seegmiller will be making her fourth trip to D.C., her third as principal. Her first trip, which she herself was a senior at Arthur High, also included a visit to New York City, which she said was highlighted by a stop at the World Trade Center. Some class trips included stops in Philadelphia.

“We’re grateful that we get to have this opportunity,” Seegmiller said, adding that it’s “just heartbreaking” that the last two classes were not able to attend.

Trip fundraising for the class of 2022 was hampered by the pandemic. Seegmiller said up until this year, they hadn’t been able to raise funds since their freshman year. It costs about $700 per student to attend.

“We have had some incredibly generous donations from community members who see a lot of value in the trip,” she said. “The wonderful thing about D.C. is a lot of things are free.”

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at

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