Kids share their tales of adventure on summer vacation
We asked students from elementary to college age to share their tales of adventure over the summer break, and hats off to those who submitted stories — our readers live some pretty exciting lives.
They swam with dolphins, caught fish, enjoyed family camping trips and traveled overseas for enrichment programs. No matter the setting, it's obvious students enjoyed a full slate of adventures this summer. Each of the three winners, Hunter Holloway, Alyssa Arce and Grace Miller, will receive a $25 iTunes gift card and a $25 movie gift card. Here are their stories!
The big catch
"Wake up it's time to go fishing." That's what I heard the morning I was going to go fishing with my family on the Chesapeake Bay. Being on a chartered boat was really nice because it was just my family and me. We had to wake up at 6 a.m. I was not happy, but as the day went on, I had fun. My uncle caught a really big fish and so did my mom. They were the first ones to catch a fish. Then I caught a 32-inch Black Drum. I could hardly hold it. It was that heavy. Next, my dad caught a 14.1 pound Sheepshead. The captain said it might be a state record. We were all really excited when he caught that fish. Later we went to the ocean to catch sharks. My grandpa caught one that was really big, but it snapped the line. My dad caught one, but it also snapped the line. My uncle caught one. I thought it was funny looking. By then our fishing trip was over, and we had to go back where we were staying. Now you see how I spent my summer vacation!
— Grace Miller, 11, Somerset
Visiting Down Under
I spent 15 days in Australia for my summer vacation. I was chosen as one of the Student Ambassadors representing the United States of America in the People to People Program. The trip was amazing; it was an experience of a life time. As an elementary student, I got to explore the lifestyle and culture of the land down under. The country itself is beautiful. The Aussies are awesome, and the wild life is something to see. I visited Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I got to hug a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, toured the Sydney Opera House and spend a day at a Catholic Elementary School. I stayed on a farm for two days, went horseback riding and snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. I tried kangaroo and crocodile, but liked kangaroo the best. I met a lot of new friends but I met a new best friend. We hung out together mostly the whole trip and were there for each other. When we landed in Pittsburgh, we found out that we only lived 20 minutes away from each other. From this trip, I experienced so much and made memories that will last a life time.
— Alyssa Arce, 12, Cheswick
The Sliding Rock
My summer vacation started when my mom put me on an airplane to visit my dad in Florida. My dad and I did lots of fun things after I arrived in Florida, but my favorite part was when my family and I crammed in an SUV, and set sail for a road trip.
We started our adventure driving from Gainesville, Fla., and our first stop was Savannah, Ga. We all ventured through Savannah looking for this old lighthouse with 187 steps to the top. My brother KC took some great pictures from the top and after that we went to the beach and walked around the city.
The following day we drove to Pisgah, NC., for our camping extravaganza. My favorite part of camping is being out in the wilderness and spending time with my dad. We stayed in North Carolina for two nights at two different campsites. We found a big beautiful waterfall, went swimming, fishing, and saw a very cool thing called a fish hatchery. My favorite part of the trip was the Sliding Rock at Pisgah National Forest! It's a natural rock formation with flowing water and we took turns sliding down and dropping into really cold water. I had so much fun -- I can't wait until next summer!
— Hunter Holloway, 10, North Side
Scout camp, Canada and Kennywood
This summer I went to Cub Scout camp. We swam, shot BB guns, and shot bow and arrows. A couple weeks later we went to Canada to see Niagara Falls. We stayed at a nice hotel near a street with lots of things to do. There were museums and haunted houses and stores everywhere. While there we went to Marineland. I got to pet a Beluga whale. It felt like slippery smooth rubber. On our trip we went to a restaurant called Betty's. Their fish and chips is their most popular dish. When I tried the fish, it was like heaven. The light and greasy batter just melts in your mouth. I loved that trip, but we had to go home.
A month later we went to Kennywood. It rained so hard that the tunnel flooded and it was up to your knees. So we had to wait till the rain stopped to leave. A couple weeks later I had my first sleep-over. It was lots of fun. We had sword fights, played air hockey and the Wii, and watched a movie. I also went to see a Pirate game. The Pirates beat the Brewers 2-0.
— Nick Wigda, 10, Glenshaw
Thailand: Summer of smiles
For most people, the summer after junior year in high school is spent touring colleges and making plans of future career possibilities. For me, my summer was so much more. Because of a scholarship I received, I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Thailand for five weeks. I spent a month traveling from Chiang Mai, to a rural village called Ban Pa Sak Ngam, to the city of Bangkok. I spent my time learning the customs of Thai people and completely immersing myself in their culture. In the city, I learned a bit of Thai language and in the country, my friends and I trekked and rode elephants. However, my favorite part of the adventure was living in the village. I stayed with a family that didn't speak any English, yet I created a relationship that will last a lifetime. My host sister and I would braid our hair and ride our bikes. I learned to speak without words. My trip to Thailand has been revolutionary in my life, not only changing my summer but changing my overall perspective.
— Grace Gongaware, Export
On July 29 I was packed and ready to go to Tennessee with my Aunt Patty and her dog Maggie. I was not going down in a car. I was flying down in a little 4-seater airplane. It was my father's boss' airplane. The ride was beautiful! We flew over the hills and mountains in Virginia. The reason I was going down was because my aunt signed me up for a golf and tennis camp where she lives. She lives at Rarity Bay, Vonore, Tenn. When we arrived we met up with my uncle and went to lunch. Then we drove the pilots back to the airport. When it became the day of the camp I got up early and got ready. The camp was fun! Mr. Steve was our tennis coach and Mr. Nick the golf pro. By the final day of camp I was hitting golf balls 150 yards. There was also a lighted-boat parade and one boat shot off fireworks. There was also a "raft up" and the boats tied together and we swam.
— Madison Cup, 9, Apollo
No more bike riding
My summer was going great. Then, my family and I did something crazy! We went on a 4 day bike ride on the Great Allegheny Passage. This was the first time I had ever tried to bike four days in a row. We even took our dog, Ginger along with us.
Our first day we biked 37 miles. The sun was beating down on us. It felt like you could have fried an egg on me. The second and third days, we biked 30 and 20 miles. I was still feeling strong as we started day four. We had 16 miles of slight down hill, it was going to be easy. Then I crashed! I could tell right away that I had really injured my left arm. I had to take an ambulance from the emergency room in Maryland, back to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh to have surgery. I now have a cast and five pins in my arm. Being in the hospital makes me think I might decide to go into the medical field and help kids like I was helped. So, even though my summer has become much less active, I do get to go to Disney World before school starts, and I definitely will not be riding any bikes there!
— Abbie Donnellan, 11, Bethel Park
This summer, I went on amazing adventures, but I was most looking forward to our trip to Tybee Island. The first few days we went to the beach and boogie boarded. One night, we went to a pizza shack called Lighthouse Pizza and the next day we went to a popular restaurant called The Crab Shack an outdoor restaurant with Christmas lights strung through the trees, many tropical birds and an alligator pit.
The next day, we toured Savannah and its many courtyards and shops. On the last day we went to the beach for the final time and I went boogie boarding. While I was coming out of the water, a jellyfish wrapped around my legs and stung them both badly. They hurt a lot and we had to buy special jellyfish spray for my legs and rub a special mixture on my legs.
The pain finally stopped, but I certainly won't be going to the beach next year! All in all, I had a great time, and even though we had some troublesome times during vacation, they made it all the better. Because really, what's life without a little risk?
— Faith Gongaware, Export
My summer was fun!
I went to Conneaut Lake. It was fun because I got to be with my cousins. It was also fun because we jumped off the raft into the lake. I slept out camping in our backyard. It was fun because my mom made s'mores and we had Wendy's to eat. I went to Biologist In-Training Camp at Fern Hollow Nature Center. It was fun because I got to see friends I have not seen in a while. I went to Girl Scout camp. It was fun because we made our lunch ourselves and we learned about the military. We went to Holden Beach. It was fun because I rode the waves. We got to see our Mimi and Papa, Uncle Jeff and Dana, Uncle Mickey, and my godmother Jennifer. I went to Woodland Pool. it was fun because I learned to swim.
— Mary Connelly, 8, Sewickley
Ever since I was very young, I've had a fascination with history, especially WWII history. I think I've seen every war movie ever made. I once asked my parents to switch from cable to satellite service, so that I could watch the History International channel. Last year at this time, I was entering my senior year of high school. Having asked to visit Normandy numerous times and being told we couldn't afford it, I wasn't even going to mention a trip our French teacher was planning. The 10-day adventure included spending time in London, Paris and of all places, Normandy. I mentioned it in passing and this time my parents seemed interested and made a proposal. If I saved enough from my part-time jobs to pay for half, they would pay the other half as a graduation gift.
Fast forward to June 23, 2011. I am boarding a plane in Pittsburgh with 5 other students and our teacher, bound for Europe. When our plane landed, we took off running and never stopped. We toured London, Paris and Versailles. But the highlight was Normandy. Seeing the bunkers and graves and knowing what took place there was humbling. I am so grateful for this opportunity.
— David Tamasy,18, West Newton
On my summer vacation, we went camping in Ohiopyle, Pa. The highlight of our vacation was our rafting trip down the Youghiogheny River. We were on the river for 5 1/2 hours. We went through some tough rapids and one of the rapids proved to be especially memorable for me and my friend Cassie. It started when we hit a bump. My friend, Cassie, flew out of the raft. One of the moms went in the water to help her. That is when one of the guides threw a rope over to help and hit my other friend in the head with it. The rope got tangled around the mom's ankle and the raft was stuck in the rapids filling up with water. Her 5-year-old kept saying stuff like "They don't want to help us!" in a worried voice. At the same time her other son's water bottle fell into the river and that is when he dived in after it. They got unstuck with the help of the guide. No one got hurt and we all look back on the experience and laugh. Overall, we had a great time and many other adventures, but that is another story.
— Miranda Williams, 10, Valencia
Bird's eye view
These 75 days of vacation were filled with so much fun and learning, that we cannot forget for years to come. In earlier vacations we just played in around the house but this vacation was so different.
One day we found a brown bunny outside our house -- so fragile -- that we took it inside our garage and made it cozy and fed it with shredded carrots, greens and, of course, garden grass. We could feel the difference in just 5 days and the bunny was running around the garage. Finally, we let it go back into the natural habitat.
Halfway through the vacation, we found a robin on the side of a road bleeding nd one wing damaged. Immediately, me and my uncle searched for an animal hospital and drove the bird to the hospital for saving his life.
Prospect Mountain, right besides Lake George in New York provides a scenic view of the wonders of mother nature and we trekked on the top crest of the mountain ! We had a bird's eye view of the lake when we did parasailing at this beautiful lake.
— Nick Kalra, 9, Pittsburgh
A summer to remember
Summer is a great time to hang out with friends, go on vacation, and spend quality time with your family. My family has a busy schedule, and trying to fit in all these activities is very challenging, but we still manage to twist around the mandatory events and plan something fun in between.
For example, my older sister is a senior in high school and wanted to look at a college in Savannah, Ga. We all planned a vacation to Tybee Island, a small place off the coast of Savannah. On our drive down, we stopped at my aunt's house and stayed a night. It was a nice break from the long car ride and it was fun being with her and my uncle. After another 5-hour car ride, we finally arrived. During our stay, we had lots of fun swimming, touring Savannah, and being with family.
By the end, I knew school was about to start and my favorite season would be over, but I knew that my family had fun, while still fitting in things we had to do. It was a great summer that I will never forget!
— Lily Gongaware, 13, Export
On the floor!
While many college seniors spend their last free summer before the "real world" relaxing, I have spent mine working within Sharon Regional Hospital. Waking up early to begin work at 6 a.m., I have been completing my clinical education for my bachelor degree within the Nuclear Medicine Dept. Although it requires early hours and challenging work all day in a room with no windows, sometimes it requires work that you never learn about in a lecture from a college classroom.
One day, I had a patient undergoing a 2-hour scan, who had two young children with her, so it was my responsibility to entertain them. Coloring pictures with crayons on an injection table is boring, but drawing SpongeBob characters with Sharpie markers on computer paper on the floor is much more exciting! Although this wasn't my everyday work, it reminded me of why I wish to work in the health field. Helping others and making a difference in someone's life is a rewarding experience. It was far from a normal day of cardiac stress tests, bone scans, and HIDA scans, but it was one of my most enjoyable days of clinical because I enjoyed reconnecting with my inner child!
— Jacqueline Gajewski, 21, Allison Park
Sharks in the water
This summer I went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, S.C. I got to visit the Ripley's Believe It or Not Aquarium where they had a shark exhibit. There was so much information about this amazing animal. I learned that sharks can smell a single drop of blood in a million gallons of water. Sharks aren't fond of the "taste of human" so it doesn't frighten me that I will be fish food! Sharks attack because they mistake people for seals floating on the surface. I had such a fantastic time there. While visiting the boardwalk, we ran across "The Sling Shot." It is a ride where you get shot up into the air at over 120 mph speeds and bounce up and down for 5 minutes! My sister and I rode it together and they video taped us so you could see what your facial expression! The craziest thing I saw was the lifeguard had a plastic turkey figure! No one had a clue why.
— Haley Thomas, New Derry
My summer vacation was adventurous, but there are three very special adventures to tell about. First, we went to the Taylor Swift concert, and then we got a golden retriever puppy. We named her Taylor. Now we have two puppies. A few weeks later, we went on our vacation to Jamaica. The beautiful beach was awesome! There is a little walk out island called John's Key. There were all these contests and games going on. One night there was a hermit crab race going on that we could bet on. My sister and I both bet on green, and we won $2 each! Another day we entered a scavenger hunt. We were in teams of three, my sister, another girl and I. We won that too. Then, there was a 40-foot. climbing wall. I climbed it twice. There were four pools, pool tables in the pools, two water slides, three Jacuzzis and one swim up bar! We got strawberry milkshakes from the bar. On our last day, we swung on a 60-foot circus trapeze. My sister and I both did it twice. Swinging up high like that was scary, but fun.
— Delaney O'Brien, 9, Lower Burrell
Eagles, whales, and glaciers, Oh my!
I spent my summer cruising the choppy waters of Alaska and Canada. Our cruise ship was named "The Norwegian Pearl." The places we stopped at were Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Victoria. We went on a few excursions when docked. Mom and I went whale watching in Juneau. We saw tons of whales! Even a baby! It was cool. My grandma went, and saw 2-week-old orcas! We went on a Saxman native village tour. We saw a lumberjack show. We did tons of shopping. My grandma, my great aunt Sue, Karen and I went on a horse and buggy tour through Victoria. We saw a good bit of eagles. One day, we cruised through Glacier Bay. The glaciers were huge and blue. It was a bit chilly there! The over-all temperature there was in the 70s. The reason we went on a cruise was because we wanted to celebrate my cousin, Brian, going into remission. He got Leukemia when he was 10. All 16 of us had a blast celebrating.
— Emily Hunter,12, Ligonier
A swim with the Dolphins
This summer I went to Mexico for vacation! I was so excited! I was headed to Cancun, but we were really going to the outskirts of a little town called Playa del Carmen. When we got there it was like a burst of hot air. I was thankful that there was almost always a breeze! Our resort was all inclusive, so we got to eat and do all sorts of activities, for free. Our resort had nine pools and a beautiful private beach from which you could see Cozumel. On our second day in Mexico, we got to swim with the dolphins! Our dolphins' names were "Estrella" and "Martes," which mean "Star" and "Mars." They did all sorts of tricks for us. It was an experience to last a lifetime! On the fourth day, we went to Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan ruins! We learned all about Mayan history and their customs. We also got to swim in a "cenote", which is an underground well that the Mayans used to get water from. It was cold, but my day at Chichen Itza was one to remember!
— Ariel Kline, 12, Vandergrift
A laid-back summer
I am a 15-year-old girl, who is about to be a sophomore. As a child, my summers were filled with slumber parties and amusement parks. When I was 12, I began homeschooling and my life did a complete 180. Instead of socializing and spending my time on Facebook, I realized the true joy and beauty life has to offer. This summer is pretty much my last summer at home, seeing as I will most likely have a job next summer, and will soon become a college student. So to make the most of my time I just relaxed, and did the things that I love to do best, including, taking walks with my dogs, writing, taking photographs, and most importantly spending quality time with my mom and dad. My home life is very blessed and I really do take advantage of that, because not a lot of people are can say that they are best friends with their parents. Since it is just us three we love going to concerts, plays, musicals, and drive-ins. No Caribbean cruise could take the place of my laid back summers. Other's may consider it boring, but to me it is sacred.
— Samantha Jo Prasnitz, 15, Latrobe