Havasu teens learn to say ‘mahalo,’ among other things

February 15, 2019

Just as most of Lake Havasu City residents are bedding down for the night, a group of 15 local teens will be boarding a jet in Las Vegas for a long journey. Their destination? Hawaii.

Lake Havasu High School U.S. history teacher Brian Zemojtel and Oro Grande Elementary teacher Jerome Kosters are accompanying the junior and senior high school students on the trip. Zemojtel, a history teacher at LHHS for 15 years, said the students will attend a week-long civic education program in Oahu.

The event is arranged through Close Up, a non-partisan citizenship education organization. Students paid for their trip through several fundraisers, tax credits and personal funds. The cost is $2,879 per pupil.

“The trip will complement the curriculum that we focus on throughout the school year,” Zemojtel said. “While we’ll learn a lot about Polynesian culture and Hawaii’s history, the focus will be on our nation’s international relations, specifically of the Asia-Pacific region.”

In a letter to parents, Zemojtel said students will visit the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a Department of Defense executive education institute. Students will learn how governments formulate foreign policy and how they interact with one another on the global stage. Presenters are from the U.S. military and the State Department as well as representatives from other nations.

“It’s almost like a little U.N.,” Zemojtel said of the Close Up program. “All nations are invited except for Burma and North Korea because of human rights violations.”

Besides predictably packing a dusting of Hawaii’s sand in their suitcases, the Havasu students will bring home a larger view of the world.

“The trip will expand their experiences beyond Havasu,” Zemojtel said. “They’ll have a greater understanding of events that are happening that we talk about in class, such as the North Korea situation and China’s building of man-made islands. They’ll learn more about U.S. policy.”

The Havasu students will be joined by Close Up program students from North Carolina and California. Zemojtel felt the smaller class size between the three schools will improve the experience for his students. A similar Close Up excursion that takes place annually in Washington, D.C. often attracts hundreds of high school students.

This will be Zemojtel’s second Close Up trip with Havasu students to Hawaii, he said Thursday afternoon.

“The weather is supposed to be in the low 80s, so it will be nice. We’re staying at the Hilton on Waikiki Beach. Close Up does a really good job of getting us nice accommodations.