Stembridge warns against Montreal trip

By Alex Gershanov
Published: November 2010

Plans for a five-day, senior graduation trip to Montreal fell through earlier this month after students were informed of the tour’s possible dangers.

South’s administration found a representative from S-Trip!, a Canada-based student tour company, distributing materials at school without permission and asked her to leave. Without enough South students signed up, the company moved on to other schools.

Principal Joel Stembridge was speaking to students in the senior commons when a representative from S-Trip! walked in, passing out pamphlets on the Montreal tour.

“That person had not received permission from the office to be in our school or to distribute materials, Stembridge said. “I was concerned¦[and] wanted parents to know that it was not a Newton South approved trip.
According to Stembridge, several past student trips to Montreal ended in unfortunate circumstances.

“[Former principals] Michael Welch and Brian Salzer had written letters to parents over the past 10 years [concerning the trip] and I took some information from them, he noted.

In an email he sent out to parents, Stembridge referenced one year when 22 students were assaulted at a Montreal bar, another where a chaperone was arrested at the Canadian border for drug possession, and a third where four South students were evicted from a hotel at night without any accommodation.

While none of these trips were sponsored by S-Trip!, the email was enough to warn parents about the dangers of newly-turned 18-year olds in Montreal. Some were concerned that the legal drinking age in Canada being 18, students would have open access to bars and night clubs.

“When my mom read the email, senior Grant Henderson said, “she didn’t know anything about the company but was confused why they were coming to school and encouraging us to go on a trip where we would drink. She didn’t think it was safe.

Though S-Trip! is a Canada-based company, it recently began inviting students from the United States to participate in its programs as well. It allegedly has over 200 students signed up for the trip from across Massachusetts.

South students were first introduced to the idea in late October, when an S-Trip! representative entered the school and spoke with a group of students in senior commons. Passing out fliers, she recruited some of the students to help her spread the word about the tour.

Senior Jeremy Einhorn was initially excited about the program and offered to help, but later felt unsure about the program’s safety.

“They were really aggressive – they would call me all the time during school and text me, he said. “I told them I heard stories about them such as people getting in trouble and arrested on their trips but they said they were different than other Montreal trips, because they weren’t specifically about drinking.

Einhorn said he understands why the school would not want to be affiliated with such a trip, but raised the point that some students will likely take a post-graduation trip to Canada anyways.

“I think kids are going to go and there’s no stopping that, and I think if we had gone as a trip it might have been safer, he said.

One such student is senior Elena Origlio who originally planned to go to Montreal with S-Trip!, but later heard of past student experiences with organized Canada trips and changed her mind.

“I don’t want to go with a sketchy company, she said, “but my friends and I are planning to go to Montreal [by ourselves] anyways.

Along with nighttime entertainment, the S-Trip! brochure also promised tours of Old Montreal, Universities, Museums, and theme parks. The entire trip, accommodations and meal plans included, would have cost roughly 600 dollars.

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