SF high school students lose $120,000 in trip money


At least 23 students at Lowell High School get to take a consolation trip to Italy, if you will, but they're still out an awful lot of money because their original tour company bailed on them.

"I've worked with this company four other times and they're amazing. I didn't expect this to be any different," said Lowell High School Italian teacher Judy Branzburg.

Branzburg had her students primed for a 17-day journey across Italy after graduation.

"We've been waiting for this trip ever since we've been freshman and started our Italian program," said Italian student Amanda Dobrov.

However, their Boston-based tour operator called The European Institute suddenly stopped communicating.

"In mid-May they just stopped answering my phone calls and emails and I was sending them daily," said Branzburg.

Then on May 17 they learned the tour company had gone bankrupt. They were out $120,000. That's $5,000 a student.

They talked to the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. The California Attorney General launched an investigation, but they learned they were just out the money. Then a contact with the San Francisco Mayor's Office connected them with another tour company called WorldStrides. The CEO decided to kick in $50,000 of his own money to rescue the would-be student travelers.

"It's sad when kids are losing out on a trip when they've been looking forward to it for a long time," said Jim Hall from WorldStrides.

"We will be going to Rome Parma and Florence," said one student.

But there is much that's been cut from their itinerary, but at least they will get to Italy.

"They were looking forward to swimming off Capri, taking a gondola ride, seeing how the light plays on the water in Venice, all the things I've been teaching them about these last few years," said Branzburg.

But at least they will get to Italy. Student Michael Wasney summed it up best when he said he is very happy in Italian.

If you would like to help these students get to Italy, you can mail a check to:
Lowell Alumni Association C/O Lowell Italian Club
Mrs. Judith Branzburg
P.O. Box 320009
San Francisco, CA 94132-0009

Or you can make an online contribution at: http://www.lowellalumni.org/donate_form.shtml
Click on the donation button and for the program designation click on "Italian Program"

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