EDMONDS — Sierra Perusse hasn’t gone very far.
She dreams of tramping through rain forests and discovering exotic beaches, but never expected to make it out of Lynnwood. She spends nearly every day making sandwiches at Panera Bread at the Alderwood mall. She’s had jobs since she was 14.
Her last vacation was a decade ago — a trip to Disneyland she hardly remembers.
Her next, she hopes, will be both soon and unforgettable.
Perusse, 17, plans to rescue endangered 1,300-pound leatherback sea turtles, soar between hills on a zipline and stay with indigenous families in the Costa Rican rain forest with a group of Scriber Lake High School students in May. The adventure will be the first international trip in the alternative school’s more than 40-year history.
“It’s not very often you get to go to a place like that when you grow up the way I lived,” Perusse said. “Going from a family that can barely feed itself to going to another country … I would never have thought I would have the opportunity.”
For many of the 18 students signed up, the trip will be their first in years.
Teachers Marjie Bowker and Chris Brown began planning the adventure over the summer through EcoTeach travel agency, but they weren’t sure it would happen until recently.
First they had to convince the Edmonds School Board that their students were responsible enough for an international trip. In late October, the board agreed, Bowker said.
Then they had to see if enough kids would actually fill out the necessary pages of paperwork and obtain passports. Fifty-five students came to the first trip meeting. To the astonishment of some administrators, 18 followed through and got passports.
Then came fundraising. The eight-day trip costs $2,200 per person.
“EcoTeach mostly goes through schools where parents can just write checks and send their kids,” Bowker said. “We knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
Bowker and Brown asked each student to bring in a list of people who might be willing to donate. Some kids couldn’t think of anyone. So the teachers emptied their personal address books.
While Bowker and Brown applied for grants, students sold Tortuga Coffee from Costa Rica and organized a dinner and silent auction at Buca di Beppo in Lynnwood, where one student works.
So far, the group has raised more than $18,000 of the $35,000 cost.
Their handwritten letters and hard work are changing people’s perception of Scriber Lake High School, said senior Katie Foster.
“Even people my age look at this school and say, ‘Those are just bad kids who don’t have anything else to do and just do drugs and aren’t going anywhere with their lives,’ ” she said while writing donation letters after school. “Going to Costa Rica makes people think we’re more than that.”
Most of the students on the trip are seniors. Many view the trip as the start of something new; an extraordinary opportunity that will whisk them from their old lives into the unexpected.
“I’ve lived in the same house my whole life,” Foster said. “I really want to change, get out of here, experience the world and change it at the same time.”
So far, Perusse has earned $1,400 for the trip.
She contributed half the money herself, shaving off portions of her paychecks.
She’s sure it will be worth it.
“Traveling is not something people in my family do,” she said, leaning over a donation letter. “It’s just not something they get a chance to do.”
Like the other students on the trip, Perusse is ready for change.
Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or email@example.com.
Scriber Lake High School students plan a fundraiser for their Costa Rica trip from 6 to 10 p.m. on April 8 at Buca di Beppo, 4301 Alderwood Mall Blvd., Lynnwood. Tickets cost $12.50 and include spaghetti, fettuccine, drinks and admission to a silent auction.
For more information, call teacher Marjie Bowker at 425-431-5838.