Featured image, above: Snorkeling on the USP Key Largo trip

2017 has been quite a year for PA Leadership’s University Scholars Program, with students in grades 6-12 accomplishing so much both academically and personally. We recently took some time to reflect on what an amazing year it has been for our honors college-preparatory program, which offers a specialized accelerated curriculum, by either attending the on-site/online blended program in West Chester or participating in the completely virtual program for statewide students. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing posts in a series called “USP: A Year in Review.” Below, you will find the fourth and last post of the series, talking about USP educational trips that took place this past year and some of the upcoming adventures in 2018.

This past year, the University Scholars Program (USP) had some amazing trips and educational journeys that brought them up and down the East Coast: north to New York and south to the Florida Keys, and several places in between!

    • At the end of May and into the beginning of June, PALCS high school students took a trip to New York City. Students participated in research at a DNA Lab, learned stage combat, saw A Bronx Tale, spotted PALCS USP alum Benjamin Hess, who was working at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and many other activities. A special thanks to Heather Arnold of Historical Adventures and USP Staff Mr. Sommar, Mrs. Niedert, and Ms. Stefanski for leading the trip!


    • In August of 2017, the USP middle school students traveled to Key Largo, Florida to live and study at the Marine Lab. Students alternated between classroom lessons and experiments, snorkeling field work, and free time with friends. In addition to diving in the sea grass, mangrove estuary, coral reef, and a plane wreck off of an isolated island, the students also visited a turtle hospital and the Everglades National Park. There was a giant alligator!”We are so grateful to the parents who made this authentic learning adventure possible,” says USP Principal Mr. Stiles. “I am very proud of our young scientists who braved open ocean, diving miles off shore along the coral reef with barracuda, and even diving at night in a lagoon.” Mr. Stiles would also like to recognize staff members Ms. Maslov (AP Psychology), Ms. Reddig (Foundations, Pre-Algebra, Algebra II, and AP Comp Sci), and Ms. Yerkes (School Nurse) for leading the students on their exploration. Also Heather Arnold of Historical Adventures, and Debra Thalhamer for their organizational expertise.


  • In November, USP teacher Mr. Parris took a group of students to Harrisburg for the PALCS annual “Senator for a Day” event. Nearly 100 PALCS students attended this adventure, including a group of USP students. During the day, they debated issues like videotaping on school buses and drug testing for welfare benefits. At the end of the day, they met with the host of the event. Senator Folmer agreed to re-work the PALCS Student Government’s bill from last year that had stalled. This was a very encouraging development. USP students, Matt Plichta, Class of 2020, Hannah Nguyen, Class of 2019, and Kaylee Goetz, Class of 2019, participated in the learning adventure.

Coming up in 2018, there are already several exciting USP trips planned.

    • There will be a USP high school trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. This trip is going to have something for everyone: code breaking at the NSA National Cryptologic Museum; archaeology in Jamestown, VA; a guided historical daylight tour and a haunting ghost tour at night in Colonial Williamsburg; an interactive trial called “Hang a Pirate,” where you are the jury; a visit to the College of William and Mary; marine biology on the ocean; environmental science in an adventure park; physics and fun at Busch Gardens! There might even be time for a swim at the beach!


  • There is a USP middle school Boston trip in the works too! This adventure in New England includes curricular connections to all of the core subjects and is packed with unforgettable experiences. There will be whale watching in the Atlantic Ocean, a Fenway Park Tour, a visit to the MIT Museum and Workshop, interactive history lessons in the steeple of the Old North Church (“One if by land, two if by sea…”), and at the Lowell Mill, and the Salem Witch Museum.

We want to thank everyone who had a part in making these educational once in a lifetime trips a possibility, from the students, their families, and staff chaperones/volunteers, these would not be possible without each and every one of you! Here at PALCS, we have an extended stay educational trip committee dedicated to developing trip proposals and guidelines for trips focusing on key educational areas including language immersion, science and mathematics, history and humanities, and civics and leadership, so more exciting trips will continue to develop!