Spanish trip is back but missing a special Señor

Six Tracy Area High School seniors, along with four adults, departed for Spain on Sunday morning. Those taking this year’s trip are, from left: Vicki Rasmussen, Yenghoua Kue, Ian Her, Matt Munson, Nathan Seager, Joseph Anderson, Nick Schmitt, Amy Munson, and Dan and Pamela Anderson. Photos / Per Peterson

For the first time since 2019, TAHS students are making

a trip overseas and are doing so without a familiar face

By Per Peterson

Pamela Anderson departed the Tracy Area High School Sunday morning with excitement and optimism, as well as a heavy heart.

Anderson, the school’s Spanish teacher, boarded a bus Sunday with six TAHS seniors and three fellow adult travelers on a sojourn to Spain. The trip, which was cancelled the last two years because of the pandemic, had just one thing missing: Shorty.

Wilmar “Shorty” Engel, who started the school’s French program in 1973, died in August 2021, leaving a void in the district’s foreign language program. Anderson traveled with Engel for a number of years and has continued his legacy of bringing kids overseas. Still, the loss of her former traveling partner hit home Sunday.

This year’s Spanish contingent included just six student travelers: Ian Her, Yenghoua Kue, Matt Munson, Joesph Anderson, Nick Schmitt and Nathan Seager. Their adult companions on the trip included Anderson, her husband, Dan, Amy Munson and Vicki Rasmussen. The adults are technically program participants, so they had to pay to accompany the kids.

This year’s trip truly carries with it a special meaning for Anderson, who has made the trip 15 times — the first few alone before being joined by Engel.

“It will be sad without Shorty,” she said. “It’s very bittersweet. He was kind of the driving force every day we were there to get us from Point A to Point B. When I first started traveling to Spain, I would go alone with the kids, so I was that person. Then when Shorty took over when Joseph was born, he liked it and just kept going. He made the trip more relaxing for me, having someone else to help with things.”

This is the first trip abroad for TAHS students since 2019, as COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 and 2021 trips. Families of students who were to take the journey a year ago were reimbursed all but $700, Anderson said.

“It was a process,” she said. “Language and Friendship, being a group, had to go through a certain path to get things, and we were told there would be no refund, so the parents went a different way to get a refund. It was a mess. It’s exciting to be going back after a couple years off.”

After what happened last year with the pandemic, the district is now working with Explorica, which replaces Language and Friendship, the group the school district had worked with since 1976.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.