PAWTUCKET — Early Saturday morning, Shea High's English as a second language teacher Barbara Fell placed three cases of freshly-made pancakes in her car for the trek from her home in Foster to the East Avenue school.
The idea was to serve a “Fisherman's breakfast” — which includes flapjacks, bacon and coffee — to early shoppers attending the first-ever Shea High School China-Bound Team Yard Sale, to be conducted inside the basement cafeteria.
“I'm from Foster, and this is the first day of fishing season statewide, so I figured it would only be appropriate to have a 'Fisherman's breakfast,” Fell smiled Saturday afternoon. “I also figured people in Pawtucket would know what it was, but when a few asked me where the fish was, needless to say, I knew it wasn't going to go too well.
“Now I've got a ton of pancakes to take back home.”
The good news for Fell and Yard Sale co-coordinator Pam Fisette? Between 8 a.m.-4 p.m., they reeled in between $400-500 from folks interested in purchasing clothing, dishes, lamps, sporting goods, stuffed animals, children's games, toys, you-name-it.
Fell and Fisette admitted they already had collected about $16,000 of the $20,000 necessary to make the trip to Hengshui High, Shea's sister school in Hebei Province, located in northern China, but still have a balance of approximately $3,500.
The group of three chaperones, including the co-coordinators and social studies teacher Glenn Hopkins, and nine students will board a plane to China on April 18, and will return on April 30. Among the students: Seniors Olivia Figueira, Kandice Ko and Zachary Bettencourt; and juniors Tatyana Leita, Christy Guerrero, Liana Weeks, Tiara Heredia, Darlene Cante and Kassandra Florez.
“It was my idea to have a yard sale, because they're very popular in Foster/Glocester, and I hoped we could raise some money,” Fell explained. “We cleaned out our basements and attics, and brought the items here for people to buy. I borrowed some tables from Tolman High and rented them to folks for $15 a piece. Most of those people will donate the funds they raise to help us out.”
Fisette explained that Louis Yip, a Pawtucket businessman and former owner of the China Inn, had donated $5,000 to the cause, and also will supply a bus for a contingent of about 15 Chinese students, teachers, administrators and chaperones who will visit Shea in early June. He also will provide some housing for that group.
“Mr. Yip has been a terrific asset and contributor in making this trip possible,” Fisette stated after the yard sale had moved, at about 10 a.m., from the cafeteria to the sidewalk outside the school, as some people had trouble finding the side entrance. “In fact, he's going to meet with us in China, and we're all going to go out to dinner.”
Other donations have come from Collette Vacations, which is handling all travel arrangements; Bristol County Savings Bank; Pawtucket Teachers Alliance; Alliance Credit Union; and even Shea teachers, staff and administrators.
“We've already had several fundraisers over the past months,” Fell noted. “We had a Zydeco dance, a 'Shea's Got Talent' Show, vendor fairs, candy drives and calendar raffles. We even had a 'Biggest Loser' contest. I have my personal trainer's license, so I ran it for six weeks from the end of March to April 8 for the teachers and staff. And our Vice Principal, Cindy Voss, won.”
On this day, some students – even their parents and other relatives – aided in the sales, while a few of the kids admitted the idea of traveling to the Far East is beginning to hit them.
“My mom and grandfather rented tables because they wanted to help me finish paying for my airfare, which is about $1,200,” Figueira said. “I'm really excited about it. It's something new to experience before I go to college. I'm going to Florida Southern University (in Lakeland), and I'm going to study to become a veterinarian.
“Last year, I had friends who went, and they said it was awesome,” she added. “They had a blast, and loved everything about it. There was nothing they didn't like, except they missed having burgers and fries, pizza, that kind of stuff.”
Offered Leite: “I think it's going to be a real eye-opening experience. I've been to the Cape Verde islands before, but I was raised in a Cape Verde family, so that I was used to. I think going to China is really going to be different. The food is different, and the schools are very different, much more disciplined.
“I think it's going to help me appreciate what I've got here. I mean, I'll complain sometimes about having to go to school for six hours every day, but I've heard that Chinese kids have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, be at school at 6 (a.m.) and are there until 10 o'clock at night, every day, Monday through Friday.
“I don't care, though. I'm still psyched about visiting a totally different culture. I also feel this is an opportunity of a lifetime, something not many people get, especially at our age.”
Weeks indicated she's very worried about affording the trip.
“I'm really stressed out, because my airfare is going to be $1,200, and I had to put $200 toward my down payment back in December,” she mentioned. “I had to raise the rest myself, so I took part in the talent show and I've sold candy and raffle tickets. The good thing is I only have about $80 left.
“I want to see the things I see in magazines or on TV, like the Bird's Nest (site of the 2008 Summer Olympics' track and field events, soccer games and Opening/Closing Ceremonies), the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. I think it's going to be really fun.”
Guerrero revealed she was worried about saying or doing something that may offend their fellow Chinese students and their teachers.
“I know there are things we're not supposed to talk about, like Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen Square, or politics,” she said. “Ms. Fell and Ms. Fisette, and (Principal) Dr. (Chris) Lord, told us, 'Whatever you do, don't bring those up. It's considered offensive to them.' So I'm not going to.”
Heredia spoke of a more basic concern.
“I've never flown before, so I'm scared about the plane ride and going to the airport. I know it's going to be a great experience, so I plan on overcoming the fear. Really, is there a better reason than going to China?”
A group of Shea students traveled to its sister school for the first time between April 14-28, 2010, and Hengshui students and teachers returned the favor by visiting Rhode Island last June. In fact, a few Raiders' females invited Chinese boys to their prom, said Business Teacher Sue Cipriano, who made that trip and volunteered her services at the yard sale.
When asked how she'd attempt to gain the balance of the necessary $20,000 in only a week, Fell just grinned, “Maybe I'll sell pancakes on a street corner.”
For more information on the China-Bound team, or to donate any amount to aid in the trip, call Shea High at (401) 729-6445.