‘Centerville Great Adventure’ a decades-long tradition

The days of taking school trips to blend fun adventures with some learning have been doomed by budget issues and other impediments, but at Centerville High School, a travel club has offered adventure-seeking students the chance to put down the electronics and embark on weeklong trips to unique places, educating themselves on things that can’t be taught in the classroom.

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School board member Annie Self said the “Centerville Great Summer Adventure” has offered a great experience for students.

“One of our teachers has taken a group of 50 students on an annual summer adventure to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota,” Self explained. “It is a 7-day excursion where the kids carry their own gear and canoes and paddle through some of the most beautiful back country our nation has to offer. It has been quite a tradition.”

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High school teacher Matthew Turton has been a guide for the trip for the past 33 years and has organized it for 24. He says there is a rich history involved with the adventure. He recently returned from the latest adventure with 4 students who made the the trip to Ely, Minnesota, which is about 950 miles from Centerville.

“This started back in 1970, when two teachers, Mack Von Allen and Jim Rawley started Eagle and Hawk, a company that provided tours for students so they could develop a love for nature in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in North East Minnesota,” Turton said.

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In those days, he added, it was about getting out-of-the house and away from too much television. Now, the kids experience life without the myriad electronics while learning how to survive and thrive for 10 days in the wilderness. And he knows first-hand: Turton was a student who made the trip in the 1980s.

“I went on the trip as a student and it totally changed my life,” Turton said. “You get 7 days and 6 nights in the woods untethered to society.”

It was such a life-changing moment that Turton, along with another Centerville alum, Mark Fridenmaker, ended up buying the Eagle and Hawk company in 1995 and renaming it Kahshahapiwi Outfitters.

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“We wanted to make sure future generations were able to experience what we did,” Turton said.

Kyle Cox, 37, and Alex Hopkins, 24, both Centerville alums, went on the trip this year and vouch for its “life-changing experience.”

Cox came in from Denver in order to help with the trip and he said it is an opportunity to grow and learn.

“When you are out in the middle of the woods, you learn a lot about yourself,” Cox said.

Hopkins, who made it to Centerville from Arlington, Virginia, to go on the adventure, said he found out that he loved nature and the outdoors when he made the trip.

“I was not a boy scout or a camper when I went,” he said. “But when I went, it helped me reset myself. It was good to learn things about the wilderness and nature.”

Sarah Swan, community relations specialist for the school district, said although the adventure trip is not school-sponsored, it has become woven into something special.

“It is pretty much word-of-mouth that keeps it going each year, and students seem eager to go,” she said.

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