Hartford Students Take Whirlwind Tour Of London, Paris
Travelers Foots Most Of Bill For High School Inc.
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
April 05, 2013
Kayleen Morales of Hartford spent her Friday night in a hotel in Paris, winding down from "surreal" visits that day to the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the French city's Latin Quarter.
"It was nonstop," said Morales, 18, who hadn't traveled more than three hours away from home until this spring break. "It was amazing."
Morales is among 21 juniors and seniors at Hartford's insurance and finance academy, High School Inc., who have spent the past week in Europe on a sightseeing tour that included educational stops at The Travelers' Co. and United Healthcare's London offices.
Students each paid $1,000 for the school's first international trip — Morales opted for $200 monthly payments with her family's help — while Travelers, the school's chief corporate sponsor, covered the rest of the travel costs, school administrators said. The group returns Saturday night.
Patrick Kinney, an executive vice president for Travelers, said it was important for students to get a global view of the insurance industry.
"In the future, we're going to need a significant amount of our workforce to come from the Hartford area," said Kinney, Travelers' president of field management and co-chairman of High School Inc.'s advisory board. "It's in the business community's best interests to produce the best minds we can."
When the public school opened in 2009, Principal Terrell Hill said, his goal was to "give inner-city kids a different perspective on their futures ... 'Wait a minute, I don't have to work at Wal-Mart as a cashier. I can become a finance director.'"
"People often don't think of things until they're exposed to it," Hill said Friday in a phone interview from Paris. He pronounced the city's name like a Frenchman.
The school on Asylum Street enrolls about 385 students in grades 9 to 12 and has 18 corporate partners, including Aetna, The Hartford and United Technologies Corp. It's also affiliated with the National Academy Foundation, a network of career-themed schools, and students are accustomed to meeting top executives as part of the curriculum.
But crossing the Atlantic is the school's biggest excursion yet — and maybe just the beginning, said Brandon Frame, High School Inc.'s director of business partnerships and development. Next year, Frame said, he hopes another trip can be arranged that includes the Asian markets.
London's Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Stonehenge in the English countryside were on the group's itinerary to start the week. One student, a soccer fan originally from Albania, also scored a ticket to watch Chelsea play Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinal.
On Wednesday, students visited Lloyd's of London, the famed insurance marketplace, and the Travelers and United Healthcare offices before taking a train Thursday morning to Paris.
"It was amazing for the kids to learn from the chief operating officer for Travelers Europe and other workers," Frame said. Students on the trip will be expected to give presentations to classmates on the differences and similarities between the U.S. and U.K. insurance industries, he said.
Morales, a senior who interned last summer at United Healthcare in Hartford, said the corporate visits were "definitely an eye-opener" and that she is contemplating a legal career that involves corporate law. She was thankful to her parents and grandmother for raising money to send her abroad.
For many students, the trip was their first time carrying a passport and practicing basic French.
"You hear a lot of bonjour, merci and merci beaucoup," Hill said. "I haven't heard one kid complaining about being homesick."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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