While most school kids are busy with the start of their summer vacation in June, one group of middle school students in Marshall look forward each year to spending a little time away from home. It’s all thanks to 40 year veteran retired school teacher Dale Rosene.
Dale taught eighth grade science at Marshall Middle School since the 1970s and recently retired in 2009. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, he had a vision of taking his middle school kids to Alaska to study the environmental effects of the spill. Only 14 students went on the first trip in 1990, but that number has grown to 75 in 2013. Students hold fundraisers throughout the year to help raise the $1,900 for each person to take the trip.
The trip usually occurs in June and the group is gone for about three weeks. They fly in to Palmer, Alaska and set up their home base at a church. They rent ten vans, and the exploration and journey begins. Dale says “we climb mountains, run races, cook our own food, do laundry for the first time, take down and put up tents, and when they come back home they’re changed people.”
For many of the students this is the first time (and longest time) away from home. It’s both an environmental thing, a science thing, and it gives kids the opportunity to really find out who they are. Some high school students and older adults are also part of the trip helping and coordinating what could be a logistical nightmare with travel arrangements, food, lodging, and the like. Contrary to what we might believe, it’s not a walk in the park. They fish for their own meals, camp, and watch for animals like moose, fox, bears, and caribou. Boat rides include whales that breach the surface of the pristine waters of the Pacific Northwest. Dale says one of the most awesome times he recalls on his 24 trips was approaching the mirror-like lake with two eagles flying above and screaming mating calls overhead.
It’s clear after interviewing and spending time with Dale Rosene, his heart is clearly with teaching kids and the Alaska trip. That said, his generosity and volunteer time doesn’t stop there with the months of planning the Alaska visit. He also plays the official pirate for Gordon School, plus is Santa in local parades around the area (including the one in Marshall). He says he’s always recognized with the beard and mustache as Santa and literally feels like a rock star arriving in the sleigh as it approaches downtown Marshall around Christmas.
The 65-year-old Rosene wouldn’t change a thing! He’s a huge Jimmy Buffet fan having been to 31 of his concerts, and has been married 44 years with one grown son and daughter. The AGLP (Alaska Great Lakes Project) has their own website. Here’s a link to Marshall Middle School.