It’s something every high school student eagerly anticipates: the senior class trip. Leading up to it, there’s voting about where to go (amusement park? dude ranch?) along with bake sales and car washes to pay for it.
But in a touching act of generosity, seniors at a Bethlehem, New Hampshire, school voted unanimously to donate the funds for their class trip—nearly $8,000—to their principal, Courtney Vashaw, who was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer of the soft tissue.
The senior class's gift shocked Vashaw, 37. “I am completely overwhelmed. They’re a completely remarkable, fun, astonishing group of people,” she told ABC News.
“It is very hard for me to accept help, and I have no idea what to say to you,” she said to her students in the video of the announcement, after they explained that she was to use the money for her medical bills.
All educators hope to make a positive impact on their students, but, as Vashaw explained to Today.com, "You're never really sure if your message sinks in."
And did it ever. "When you have an opportunity like that, it's much better to do that than ride horses at a dude ranch," senior Hunter Leighton, 18, told Today.com.
Vashaw’s reaction: "I know how hard they worked to try to plan a good last hurrah. For them to make that decision is really a testimonial to the character of the kids.”
Doctors removed a tumor under Vashaw's arm in April, and a few weeks later she was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma (the disease commonly starts in the legs or arms). Only one to three people per million are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year, which is more common among teens and young adults, but can can occur at any age.
Next week, Vashaw will head to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to get a treatment plan. While she's away, she'll know her students have her back.
"One sense of pride is when you can see a student writing a beautifully turned paper putting all their ideas out succinctly and eloquently," Vashaw said. "Then there are these actions that come out of something bigger.”