Two Astoria High School seniors are raising money to send students to Walldorf, Germany, after the American side of the exchange went on hiatus last year for the first time since 9/11.
Andrew Schauermann and Megan Schacher both have German heritage and siblings who have traveled on the yearly exchange. Their families host exchange students each year. The two were taken aback by last year, when only one student could go and the American side of the exchange was canceled. They are trying to raise at least $20,000 by January to help cover airfare, which can be about half the cost of the exchange.
Walldorf is the hometown of Astoria namesake John Jacob Astor, whose American Fur Co. founded Fort Astoria in 1811. Walldorf and Astoria have been sister cities since 1963.
Advising Schacher and Schauermann is Jim Pierce, a Warrenton Police Department sergeant who has organized the trip to Germany for the past 15 years, since his daughter went.
“Last year, I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “I think the cost of the trip is probably one of the most … challenging portions of this trip.”
Walldorf students receive corporate sponsorships and support from the city’s local chamber of commerce, Schacher said, and only pay about $1,000 to come to America. Pierce tries to keep the cost of the trip, which includes 10 days in Walldorf and touring sites across Western Europe, at around $2,500 per student. But whether students can go often depends on fundraising and families forking up the travel costs.
“With Megan and Andrew doing this project, we are hoping to get some fundraisers set up so students can help pay for this trip,” he said. “Some of the ideas are maybe an individual money match, or individual sponsorships, where someone from the community might help share in the trip by helping them singularly.”
Pierce pays his own way to Germany each year, while sponsoring a lower-income student and part of a female chaperone.
Since summer vacation, Schauermann has been collecting cans for deposit. He and Schacher are organizing fundraisers such as a German dinner and silent auction. The two are also trying to find host families for the exchange students arriving in November.
About seven Astoria students are interested in going so far, but the goal is to get at least 11 for discounted airfare, Schacher said. The exchange program prefers Astoria students but is open to families throughout the county, Pierce said.