A group of Ashland High School students will travel to Morocco next summer to visit a world music festival, tour ancient cities and do service projects with African youth.

A group of Ashland High School students will travel to Morocco next summer to visit a world music festival, tour ancient cities and do service projects with African youth.

The trip was organized by Steve Scholl, owner of Imagine Adventures, after he took his own high school-aged son on a similar trip two years ago and decided it would benefit other teenagers.

"He just fell in love with the country and he had such a great time," Scholl said about his son, Dylan Lineberger Scholl, now a senior at AHS. "There's a lot of opportunity for high school kids to go and actually experience something that's really different. We're not just going over to listen to some music."

Morocco falls somewhere between the first and third worlds, with a developed transportation system and safe accommodations, but still a lot of poverty, Scholl said. The students will take sports equipment to donate and play some games with their Moroccan peers, in addition to participating in an ecological service project.

Scholl recruited district teachers Mark Schoenleber and Abdiaziz Guled, leaders of the popular overnight freshman orientation program Fresh Start, to chaperone the trip.

"I think the impact on kids, both the physically being there and the work we're going to do there with other kids — even if it's just getting out and playing soccer with kids — it will be an amazing experience," Schoenleber said.

Students will visit the ancient cities of Fes, Marrakech and Meknes, and the Roman ruins of Volubulis; hike in the High Atlas Mountains; and attend the Gnaoua World Music Festival in the port city of Essaouira.

The cost of travel

A second trip that high school French teacher Lauren Schaffer usually leads to France every other year was cancelled for the upcoming summer because of the uncertain economy.

"Normally we would have gone this year, but I'm putting it off until 2010 because everything is so unstable," she said.

The last trip she led cost about $3,700, including airfare, transportation, hotels, visits to French painters' homes and a one-week home stay with a French family, she said.

The two-week Morocco trip will cost $2,950 plus $1,600 airfare for the 14-day trip. Scholl chose Morocco because the costs are lower than visiting European countries, and he said he is not worried about getting enough students to go on the trip. At least 12 students must go on the trip, and it is capped at 32.

The group has already planned several fundraisers, including dances, car washes, candy sales and a raffle.

"We're gong to do as much fundraising as we can to make it as affordable as possible," he said.

Although international trips are not sponsored by the school district, if students can afford to go, the experience can enhance their education and give them a more global outlook, AHS principal Jeff Schlecht said.

"When they come back to school, they have a different appreciation of their education too, because now they can compare and contrast," he said. "I think it will enhance their understanding of our culture and make them more informed citizens."

The trip is not limited to Ashland High School students, Scholl said. Parents, siblings and students from other districts are also welcome. French, Arabic and Berber are spoken in Morocco, but there is no language requirement to go.

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.