Jake Huysentruyt: A Warm Welcome from Disney
Jake Huysentruyt, Director of Bands at Sandusky Community Schools in Sandusky, Michigan, began traveling with his students back in 2007. Huysentruyt, who teaches grades 5 – 12, was afforded the privilege of traveling as a student himself, and saw firsthand the value of student travel.
“I had been on some trips as high school student myself, and really had a great time, so I always said to myself, when I get a chance to do that—if I do end up becoming a band director—then I want to take my students on trips like that,” Huysentruyt said.
Most recently in October, Huysentruyt led a group of students in grades 9 – 12 to Disney, where they were welcomed as the very first parade and clinic held at the attraction since it reopened to groups.
“The talent coordinator, who we met for the parade on that Sunday, said, ‘You guys are the first group we've had back and we're so excited,’ and it was just neat, because they had a little more staff on hand,” Huysentruyt recalled. “All the staff was so excited to be welcoming groups back, as it had been a long time since they had a group. So, it was fun, because they were just so excited about the whole thing.”
Unsurprisingly, the excitement extended to Huysentruyt’s students, as well.
“Some of the group had been on a band trip before, so they were excited but knew what to expect,” Huysentruyt said. “But some of the group had never been on a trip like that before. So, they were excited too, but in a different way.”
Coming from a small town, Huysentruyt estimated approximately between 60% to 70% of the students traveling in his group had never been on a plane before.
“That was a neat first experience of flying for a lot of them,” he said. “It's really neat when we go do one of these trips, especially for those kids who get to do these experiences for the first time.”
Undoubtedly, the highlights of the trip for Huysentruyt and his students were the performance experiences.
“We did the parade and also the ‘You’re Instrumental’ workshop, which was awesome,” Huysentruyt said. “Again, all the staff was so excited to be having groups back again since we were the first ones to do a workshop, also. They were on their A game! It was an excellent workshop and the students had a good learning experience.”
When it comes to lessons learned on this trip, Huysentruyt says he’s learned he actually prefers flying with a student group over driving. And while he thinks his students walked away having gained new and elevated skills on their instruments, the ultimate takeaway is bigger than that.
“I think they also have a lot of memories and experiences from traveling together with their friends and experiencing all of that together, that they'll remember forever,” he said.
In addition to suggesting a trip to Disney, Huysentruyt says he can’t recommend working with a student travel planner company like ETI enough.
“They help with the organization of things and make your job easier so you can actually enjoy the trip, as well,” he said, emphasizing how great ETI has been throughout the pandemic. “ETI really is on the ball 100%. Every little tiny email question that I sent them, or every time I called with a question, they were jolly on the spot with a response, trying to help organize the details of things, including every single aspect of how to navigate COVID regulations.
“I can’t recommend ETI enough! I’ve traveled with other companies, so I can make some comparisons between other companies and them. ETI is my number one choice.”