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Goleta Resident Helping Dream Trip Come True for Students in Alaskan Village

Jeanne Rodkey has a full slate of activities planned for them in Santa Barbara County, but funding is still needed

Imagine growing up on a small island in a village of only 40 people. The only connection to the outside world comes through a mail plane about twice a week, depending on the weather. For the 12 schoolchildren of Stony River, Alaska, this is their world.

Their teacher, Debi Rubera, envisions something much larger than that. When asking her pupils about their aspirations, Rubera found their hopes and dreams quite modest: to ride a horse, to see the ocean, to go to an amusement park, to experience normal American life.

To break the cycle of despair rampant in small villages such as Stony River, Rubera planned to fulfill the children’s dreams. She and her students established a store in their store-less village, saving the profits of about $10,000 toward a trip for them. The Native Corporation supplemented these profits with a small grant. Rubera also spoke with friends stateside when looking for additional help.

Goleta resident Jeanne Rodkey, who grew up in Stony River, heard about Rubera’s plans and decided to help make them a reality. She organized pen pals between the Stony River students and Santa Barbara children. When Rodkey heard about the proposed trip, she helped plan their lodging and activities for the upcoming May trip to Santa Barbara County.

The trip will begin with a stay on a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley. After that, the children will stay in a house in Goleta. Planned activities include riding horses in Santa Ynez, going to Magic Mountain, sailing, having dinner with the Montecito Fire Protection District, exploring the wharf’s Ty Warner Sea Center, viewing the night sky at the Westmont College Observatory, and visiting museums in Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara, Simi Valley and Los Angeles, among other exciting events.

“I am so amazed with the teacher’s dedication and the children’s drive, and the Stony River community’s enthusiastic response,” Rodkey said. “Despite misgivings that such a plan would be possible, the entire village has thrown themselves into the project of preparing for the trip. And people here have been very generous, donating food, activities and services that would otherwise be unaffordable.”

The trip’s funds lack about $7,000 — remarkable when considering the low income of the village inhabitants. For those interested in funding this life-changing event, a PayPal account has been set up to receive donations. Click here to contribute.

If you encounter a dozen eager children sporting wide grins in the first week of May, be sure to give them a warm Central Coast welcome.

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