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World Traveler Visits with Junior High Students

posted Aug 11, 2014, 10:47 AM by Fran Prentice

Where in the World is Katie?  That was a question much on the mind of many sixth grade social studies students at Wells Junior High School months prior to the summer break.

In the fall of 2013, Katie McDonough, a 2009 graduate of Wells High School, began a journey to fulfill a dream to see the world, or as much of the planet that she could experience on a limited budget.  Setting out alone in October, McDonough first flew to Cape Town, South Africa and ended up months later in Reykjavik, Iceland before heading back to America.   From start to finish she traveled 38,000 miles in eight and a half months.

However, McDonough was not totally alone.  Documenting her trip on an enormous wall map thousands of miles away in a basement hallway of Wells Junior High School was her mother Kim McDonough, an Ed Tech III at the school, and many interested sixth grade students.   Each major stop on McDonough’s trip through ten countries and Hong Kong was flagged on the map located in the 6th grade wing.   The stops were strung together by black yarn and featured accompanying photographs and comments.  This monitoring plus classroom discussion and an accompanying geography contest was referred to as “Where in the World is Katie?”.  All of this was initiated by Kim McDonough with help and support from teachers Bonnie Dill and Marilyn Zotos.

On June 17th, the traveling McDonough, a 2013 graduate of Eckerd College with a major in Anthropology, visited WJHS to meet with 23 representatives of the 6th grade, students who had been picked for this luncheon based upon contest results.   Over a two hour period, McDonough lunched with the kids, spoke to them and responded to questions.   She also handed out ice cream and souvenirs including small American flags and coins from the various countries that she had visited. 

Kim McDonough said that her daughter saved up for the trip by working up to 80 hours a week at a summer job after college.  McDonough believes that her daughter’s desire to see the world began when Katie was a freshman spending time in Jamaica on a mission trip.   Katie continued her benevolence away from the comforts of home by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans during her high school sophomore year and later, in college, traveling on various service trips including one landing her in Peru where she helped build steps at a school in the mountains and another to Ghana where she made mud bricks for shelters.

On her world trip, McDonough experienced some lean times when money ran low.  To support an extended stay in South Africa and to continue funding the trip, McDonough worked at a surf shop in Muzienburg and later as a housekeeper and waitress at a resort in New Zealand.  Her world adventure eventually took her to Asia where she met up with a friend in Hong Kong who accompanied her to Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.            

Caption:  Sixth grade students meeting with Katie McDonough (in the last row on the right) and Katie’s mother Kim McDonough at Wells Junior High School in June.  Before them are sixth graders at WJHS who monitored McDonough’s journey.  At left is a world map showing the recent journey around the globe by Katie McDonough, a 2009 graduate of Wells High School.
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