Seventh graders return from wilderness survival trip

Jun 8, 2019

MATTAPOISETT — Crowds gathered at Old Rochester Regional Junior High School on Saturday, June 8 to welcome back seventh graders from their week long “Wilderness Survival” trip in Northfield.

Roughly 130 students traveled to western Massachusetts for a journey free of electronics and other modern comforts. They went on hiking expeditions, cooked food over open fires and built temporary shelters out of plastic tarps, shower curtains and other similar items.

Students returned to ORRJHS in buses lead by a police escort around 2 p.m. Emily Petrulli waited in anticipation for the return of her daughter Addisyn. She said it was exciting to see how her daughter and others fared on their journey.

Addisyn made it through survival week last year, and returned as an eight grade chaperone. She said her experience was different the second time around because she had to rally the other kids and bring them all together.

She was responsible for cooking and cleaning pots and pans, which made her gain more respect for everything her parents do at home. One of the challenges Addisyn faced was hiking up a large hill called “the notch” with her backpack and gear.

She said she is likely to chaperone again next year because the experience “makes you a better makes you learn a lot about yourself.”

Adult chaperone Kevin Thompson served as a leader in the expedition team, taking students on “massive hikes.” He said the trip is important because “it puts [the students] in an environment where they’re given an opportunity to succeed in ways they could have never done before.”

He has been participating in the annual trip since 1988 and said one thing that stood out this year was students’ resiliency in the face of heavy rain.   

Students are required to work in shifts throughout the night to maintain a fire. Thompson said that on one night of the trip they were able to keep a fire going through “torrential downpours” without having to wake up adults for help.

Seventh grader Kate Plante said her tent began flooding at one point. She used rocks and leaves to keep water out and stay safe.

Owen Fogarty traveled all the way from Tennessee to Chaperone the trip, but his contribution didn’t end when students got off their buses at ORRJHS. Fogarty is an operations manager for Tide Cleaners and helped collect bags of laundry to wash and dry for students. He said the event fit in with Tide’s motto “life, not laundry.”

Fogarty said that taking care of the laundry would give students more time to reunite with families and get ready to go back to school. Each of the Tide laundry bags are labeled with students’ name to avoid confusion.