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"This is not about me. If it were, I would handcuff her to a bed. It's about Phoebe. It's about me … letting go."



McGuire was sitting in senior study hall during a 90-minute free period last November, when the Evergreen High student became restless.

McGuire felt disconnected. Some fellow students were playing a "Guitar Hero" video game. And the "immature" conversations of teenage boys seemed pointless.

Watching a ping-pong ball bounce back and forth between two students at a game table proved the last straw.

"Wow, my life is being wasted," she told her mother when she got home.

A year earlier, her mother, Nancy, had researched a program for teenage girls called the Traveling School, which was founded by a Montana educator who spent her childhood in Sphinx Park near Pine.

It offers a semester-long program for young women, ages 15 to 18, who want to enhance their traditional educations with an overseas adventure. Students earn full high school academic credit for courses in math, history, science, language arts, foreign language, PE, and global studies while also learning about the environment and the cultures of faraway lands.

The15-week programs offer travels to such destinations as Africa, South America, Nepal, Mexico and New Zealand. The classes top out at 16 students.

When Nancy first researched the program, in Phoebe's junior year, the family couldn't afford the tuition. But a fortunate turn of events provided some unexpected cash.

"You should apply," Nancy told Phoebe last November.

"No! No way! Like, that's so cool!" Phoebe replied.

On May 19, before the student body at Evergreen High School, Phoebe reflected on the chain of events which followed that epiphany in senior study hall. She had just returned May 15 from South America with unforgettable, life-changing stories to share.

"Four months ago I was different in a lot of ways," she told the audience. "I grew more than ever over the past three and a half months."

Through a photo presentation, she expounded on the details of her trip, which offered the "world as classroom."

Fourteen girls and four teachers traveled on eight planes, 18 buses, three boats and one train during their journey through three countries. They stayed at 18 hostiles, on one boat, at one hotel and one hacienda. They spent 11 nights in tents and a week with two different native families. One family's home had only two rooms. Phoebe, two friends and one teacher slept on the floor of one room, and the family of six slept in the other.

The girls were squeamish, but hid it, when prized guinea pigs that scurried about the family's kitchen were killed, cooked, and offered to them as a delicacy.

The girls grew strong traipsing about the countryside with 50-pound packs on their backs. They toured museums, hiked a glacier, climbed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and were churned in boats over whitewater rapids through rainforests.

"It was so cool to look around and say, 'What the heck? I'm in the Amazon!' " Phoebe said.

The girls rose at 5:30 each morning to exercise. They cooked their own food and connected with the world via Internet cafés. They had daily study periods, did research, wrote term papers, had poetry recitals, learned Spanish and wrote in personal journals.

They swam with dolphins and, one day, unexpectedly, with hammerhead sharks.

The Galapagos Islands, once familiar only in schoolbooks as Darwin's playground, came to life when the teens encountered a 150-year-old tortoise, a black iguana, red-chested frigate birds and a blue-footed booby.

"This trip was many, many thingsstressful, sleep deprivedhowever, this was the best decision I've ever made," Phoebe said.

Evergreen High counselor Tracy Thompson was in charge of ensuring that Phoebe's studies met the necessary criteria. Students who experience unique educational programs can gain from that, she said. She knows of athletes who have joined training programs abroad, and even one former EHS student, now in college, who plans to participate in an adventurous program this fall designed for students entering the medical profession.

"This was out of the perimeter of typical, but we would advise kids to do this," Thompson said of Phoebe's experience.

Atypical programs such as the Traveling School require more than approval from school administrators. They also require courage on the part of parents.

Pheobe's parents, Nancy and Shannon McGuire, kept tabs on her travels by means of a blog shared by the other families. Despite the fearlessness and optimism displayed by many parents at the onset of the girls' journey, there was great relief upon their return, Nancy noted.

"This was not some indulgent tripthere were physical challenges," Nancy said. "(But) this is not about me. If it were, I would handcuff her to a bed. It's about Phoebe. It's about me … letting go."

Nancy talked with administrators at the Traveling School numerous times before her daughter met her fellow travelers in Florida in February. Nancy learned of their qualifications and of other expeditions the school had orchestrated since it was formed eight years ago. But she also flew to Miami along with other parents to meet the teachers, who were in their 20s and 30s. She discovered them to be talented and competent role models, she said.

"It felt like we had done our job for 17 years, and it was our time to do the handoff," Nancy remembers of the experience. "This was their job to grow her, for her to experience things that would never happen in our home, in our schools, in our town."

Phoebe's younger siblings, Logan and Daisy, were saddened by her departure. And yet her example was inspirational. When a teacher in Logan's middle school assigned an essay to identify a hero, he wrote about his sister Phoebe.

Phoebe has returned in time for graduation at EHS. But re-entry to life in Evergreen has been surreal, she said Monday. Her emotions are tied up in both worlds. High school parties are less enticing than the memories of grateful children forced to use outside toilets, flushed by water from a bucket, who take nothing in life for granted.

In the fall, she heads to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. She will receive scholarships of $12,000 per year for four years.

But she has yet to decide a majorbe that marine science, foreign studies or other optionschoosing to remain "reflective" a while longer in light of her recent discoveries.

Phoebe has a connection to watershe loves sailingand has wanted to work with dolphins since she "came out of the womb."

But those plans have been confounded by the inspirational stories of teachers on her trip who once served in the Peace Corps. And she discovered an attraction to foreign languages while abroad. She enjoyed learning Spanish and would love to learn more.

Not to mention the case studies she did on hazardous waste with a traveling companion. She learned of a "trash vortex" in the Pacific Oceanwhere divergent currents have trapped vast amounts of floating materials and disposable plastics (an area the size of Texas), killing marine life.

Those studies expanded her world view, and drove home the realization that mankind must now undo the damage.

Still, it was a butterfly she observed in the Amazon, wriggling to escape its cocoon, that brought her adventure full circle. And she wrote about it in a science paper.

The movement of the insect reminded her of the ping-pong ball on the day of her epiphany back at EHS.

Both moved to and fro but appeared to go nowhere, until the butterfly broke through and spread its wings.













































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