Scholars By The Sea: An Inside Look At The Class Of 2024 Trip to Monterey

Salty beach winds, big-eyed sea otters spinning in the water, and memorable time spent with close friends. Beautiful Monterey, California, the destination of the Junior Scholars trip.  To get a spot takes hard work, and a rigorous schedule. Scholars at CB are required to take certain classes that make their lives much more challenging. I […]

Salty beach winds, big-eyed sea otters spinning in the water, and memorable time spent with close friends. Beautiful Monterey, California, the destination of the Junior Scholars trip. 

To get a spot takes hard work, and a rigorous schedule. Scholars at CB are required to take certain classes that make their lives much more challenging. I can attest. However, the allure of the elusive Scholars trips certainly motivates us to stay in the program. But what are they really like?


As juniors in the Scholars Program whose past two years have been heavily influenced by the pandemic, Monterey will be our first opportunity to reap the rewards of enduring a rigorous curriculum for our entire high school careers.

Unfortunately, our chance at such a welcome release from the unrelenting stress of our schedules during our sophomore year was not an option. Due to the public health crisis sweeping the globe, we were not able to visit UC Berkeley as the Class of 2025 did earlier this school year. “I was a little upset because it just looked like so much fun,” Sydney Walsh (‘24) says in reference to our canceled trip. “I was really sad. Don’t say I was really sad. That sounds pathetic.” It’s okay. We can all be a little pathetic in our disappointment. But fortunately, our junior year trip was close approaching. 

At the point that I am writing this section of the article, we have not yet embarked upon our highly awaited journey, but excitement levels are ramping up. As a little game, count the number of times the word “excited” comes up in the sequence of quotes that follow this sentence. 

“I’m so excited.” Sydney, starting us off strong with 1.

“I’m not super excited for it because I’m not gonna really be there, but I’m gonna miss my friends,” Jacob Sawtelle (‘24) admits, considering the harsh reality of not being a Scholar and therefore not being able to go on the Scholars trip. Joey McCloskey (‘24), also a little hurt, chimes in, adding “I’m really excited to not go.”

“I’m very excited to spend all my nights” — it’s only one night — “with my boyfriends Finnegan Day (‘24), Shane Shriock (‘24), and Jacob Gouker (‘24) in the hotel room…but I’m also gonna miss Jacob Sawtelle the most,” Parker Clymer-Engelhart (‘24) offers.

“I’m excited to be sleeping in the same bed as Parker,” Finn laughs as if he’s just joking about the reason for his fervent anticipation, but Parker truly is his raison d’être, and we all know it. 

“I’m really excited. I feel like it’s gonna be a really nice break from school,” Mikeila Ghelfi (‘24) brings smiles to all of our faces when she reminds us that we will indeed be enjoying a five day weekend, an awesome mix of soothing relaxation and swirling exhilaration.

That brings the total count to four “excited” and two “not excited,” but the “not excited” people would be excited if they got to go, so my point is, people are EXCITED.


Our day of travel starts at 8 AM with a rough estimate of the bus arriving at 8:30. That did not turn out to be true. Huddled in little circles like penguins trying to conserve heat, our hope fades as the minutes tick by. Our bags and selves are given a good sniff by the drug dog, and with no issues, everyone clears the inspection. Back we go to our huddles eagerly anticipating the drive to Monterey. “They’re cutting into my beach time!” Parker shouts, feigning anger as we sit at one of the metal tables on the Main Lawn shivering in the Sacramento morning chill. With eagle eyes, we wait and watch until we finally see the humongous monstrosity of a vehicle that we will claim as ours for the next three hours. 

Finally, the time has come to throw our luggage in and board the beloved bus. Packed in, a final headcount is done, and we’re off. As we near his Elk Grove territory, Parker begins to point at all the locations he recognizes, giving us time estimates for a rerouting to his house or his grandpa’s house or to specific shopping centers. Thank you, Parker. It was really appreciated. He quickly gets in a fight with Keila about which freeway we’re on. He’s right of course. This is his neighborhood!

As time passes, conversations drift in and out of my ears. Remarks made in passing, hearty laughs, gasps — all evidence of our excitement for the next 30 hours of our lives.

Shane getting a “fire fade (he came up with the caption).

Soon, Parker, the main antagonist of this bus ride and many others, pulls up Garage Band on his iPad and disconnects his AirPods so that everyone can hear him craft one of his magnificent beats. Or so he believes. After getting side eyed for a continuous 15 minutes, he finally puts it away. This is not the last time Parker will blast his Garage Band beats for the entire bus. 

We arrive at our first location. In an attempt to keep the trip somewhat veiled in secrecy, I won’t reveal where. Shane decides that his hair has gotten too long and heads immediately to a Supercuts. As everyone branches off to find food, Shane instead dedicates his time to his beautification — a haircut that surprisingly doesn’t look bad. 

Back on the bus, we decide to put my plumping lip gloss on Parker. Quickly forgetting about it, I look back at him after 10 minutes and see that he seems to be having an allergic reaction. Honestly, serves him right for the past and future Garage Band transgressions. 

Once we finally reach Monterey, a scavenger hunt begins. Our group initially takes it seriously but quickly loses interest as we start exploring all the small Monterey stores with their clothes and candles and candy. 

Parker’s concerningly plumped lips.

The last group back to the bus, we never actually finish the scavenger hunt. There’s more excitement to be had about our adventure to the beach that should happen as soon as we get to the hotel. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t choose to cooperate, and water starts pouring from the sky. With a canceled beach trip, we decide to hit the hotel pool. But soon after jumping in, we realize that this was not a good decision. Murky warm liquid that smells disturbingly like sweat greets us, and I’m disgusted to admit that some does make its way into our mouths. 

“It tasted very salty, and I did not like it,” Parker complains after the fact. He uses the words thick, murky, chlorinated, and cloudy in his description of the harrowing short dunk in the water. 

Then, as if it was planned, the rain has stopped and Nathan Carrasco (‘24) tells us the good news: the beach trip is back on. Unfortunately, I’m a little too chilly from the misguided pool adventure, so I decide to skip out and take a nice, hot, refreshing, pre-dinner shower. The beach people, from what I can tell, have a lot of fun, but the whipping winds, freezing water, and swirling sand don’t sound appealing to me personally. So unpleasant are the conditions that the supposedly calming ocean breeze blows over chaperone, Mrs. Cecilia Powers.

Our group attempting to complete the scavenger hunt and failing badly.

Isabella Lutzenberger (‘24) describes her surprise. “It was a lot colder than I thought it was going to be.” Exactly why I didn’t go. “I don’t know why people went swimming. They’re insane for that.”

Parker, Finn, Shane, and Adam Sunderman (‘24) are four of these idiotic individuals. I’m not surprised. 

Gabriella Dizon (‘24) paints a picture of her first day. “I said I was going to go to the beach with my roommates, but then we all kinda sorta fell asleep in the room, and we woke up, and then everyone was gone for the beach.” Instead of trying to catch up with the others, Gabbie and her roomies just kept on sleeping and snacking. 

Instead of subjecting myself to the outdoors in what I, as a Calfornian born and raised, consider to be freezing temperatures, I wrap myself up in a comfy hotel blanket and watch some TV until it’s time to head downstairs and board the bus once again for dinner.

Pizza Party Time!

Packing around the tables, we prepare ourselves for the large trays of piping hot molten cheese, pillowy crust, and tasty sauce that will soon be devoured. After our meal, I gather people’s opinions.

“I would give the pizza a solid 6 because the crust was amazing, the cheese was amazing, but the sauce just was not there. It was just too watery for me,” Keila explains, while Sydney nods along in agreement. “I would give it like a generous 7…the gelato made up for it,” Sydney adds, describing her one marshmallow in her scoop of Rocky Road as slightly disappointing but overall a good experience. 

Giselle making some interesting culinary decisions.

Gabbie offers a slightly different perspective on the restaurant adventure, focusing less on the actual taste of the pizza. “I give it a 10 because Giselle Blanco (‘24) spilled a whole container of chili flakes and refused to let it go to waste, so she ate all of it.” In one of the pictures Gabby shows me of the incident, Bella’s eyes are welled up with tears of laughter. 

A ride back to the hotel and a quick change into PJs and suddenly, we have again collected in the hotel lobby with the intent of playing a card game that quickly devolves into small conversations, scrolling on TikTok, and heavy, sleepy eyes.

Then, I realize that I am writing an article, so I position my phone in the middle of the table and, like a parent annoying their children, I ask everyone to tell me about their day. 

Lillian Barrett (‘24) a beach person, seems to describe a harrowing experience. “We went to the beach, and it was so cold and rainy, and the sand was being whipped.” However, when asked if she and the others would do it again, yes, yes they absolutely would. Couldn’t be me. 

But before I can get too deep into a conversation with anybody, Adam says something outrageous that makes me pause the group interview and play back the recording so we can all hear exactly what he was begging us not to listen to again. 

The rest of the evening before our curfew involves laughing at Adam, taking bad pictures of each other, and acknowledging the fact that we didn’t even touch the vast multitude of games we thought we would be enjoying for hours on end. 

Back in our hotel room, Sydney and I, joined by Niamh McKenna (‘24) and Sabrina Gouker (‘24), play a card game for a little bit and then rest up to get our energy levels high before our aquarium expedition. 

The Life Aquatic

Early in the morning, the beach people get ready for yet another trip to the beach in deplorable conditions. Masochistic. I stay in bed, sleeping soundly until I barely have enough time to get ready before boarding the bus. 

Side note: if you tell a group of 50 teenagers to meet in the lobby with a hard deadline of 10:30, they will all come down with one minute to spare and block up the elevator so badly that they all end up missing that deadline. 

We throw our luggage on the bus and hop into our seats, planning out the exhibits we’ll visit and sights we’ll see in the upcoming hours. 

What normal people were doing in the aquarium.

Unfortunately, I somehow end up in the dark, soothing auditorium and lose track of time watching presentation after presentation with my phone silenced while people search for me in fear that I have gotten lost. I emerge back into the light with a collection of voicemails and around 40 missed calls. All by myself and unable to find the others, I take a walk along Cannery Row until I meet Olivia Yee (‘24) and Madelyn Dong (‘24) buying chocolate.

Reunited with my people, we search for somewhere to eat with little success and end up reentering the aquarium with little candies stuffed up our shirts in fear that we will be denied entrance with outside food. 

Passing time until we can begin our journey home, we stroll through the gift shop and marvel at the sight of a single pen costing $12.

Homeward Bound 

For the final time, we board the bus to begin our trip back to Sacramento. With exhaustion rather than anticipation, the drive seems much longer and more excruciating than the first.

To make matters worse, Parker opens the Garage Band app once again. He and Finn begin to devise a beat that I can only describe as painful. Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad if I hadn’t had to listen to it hundreds of times looping over and over and over and over and over. Oh, and for some reason, they can’t use AirPods, so most of the bus is also subject to this auditory torture. They literally spend 30 minutes to an hour marveling over the sound they’re creating, and although it’s probably better than what I could do, it doesn’t sound that incredible. Instead, the final combination resembles the background music of Animal Jam.

Finn with a hat that he probably made.

After being rightfully bullied into turning off the horrible “music” (if you can call it that) coming from Parker’s iPad, Finn and I get into a conversation about his vision for humanity. Finn is strangely obsessed with the idea of living in an ancient world, where he can hunt for his food, spend his time performing manual labor, and craft the items he needs. Is he describing Minecraft? Possibly. As a past Waldorf kid, Finn has a collection of random skills, like knitting, sewing, walking on stilts, and making useful items. Finn describes how disturbed he is that humans have become so attached to their phones and the comforts of living in the developed world. He thinks we’re made for a different kind of life, one involving daily exercise for survival, a healthy diet of foraged foods, and an absence of modern technology. He finds no issue with the idea of rampant disease, starvation, or the danger of wild animals.

Nearing the greater Sacramento area, everyone seems to perk up with the knowledge that we are close to home. Thankfully, we didn’t get sideswiped within mere minutes of CB. 

The bus comes to a stop and we sigh with happiness and sadness that our trip has finally come to its end. A group of students gifts Ms. Chrys Cassetta a collection of the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald that they bought from Barnes and Nobles, and she hugs each of them in turn. We part ways, driving off in different directions, finally coming to the realization that there is school tomorrow and we have not done our homework. 


Our delightful two-day vacation to Monterey was a welcome break from the stress of our usually bustling schedule packed with homework, tests, and concepts that we’re on the verge of grasping but just can’t for some reason. We were able to relax, ignore our assignments, and spend valuable time with our classmates. 

But was it worth the late nights, tireless essay editing, and relentless studying? While the sights were stunning and the time off school was a welcome break from the stress, do the fun times balance out the difficulty of meeting course requirements and maintaining a certain GPA?

Nathan explains that he would have taken the classes anyway. “I think you should take the hard classes to take hard classes and to better your future,” he notes, adding that the trips are “a great added bonus.” 

Parker jumps on the mic with his irrelevant opinion. “The trip was really fun!” 

Nathan responds with territorial, joking harshness. “She’s interviewing me, not you Parker, so how about you shut up.”

Parker, who knows that I’ve included some of his memorable behavior in my description of our adventure, seems to misunderstand. “But the article’s about me,” he declares with confidence. Sure Parker, the article is about you. 

Nathan continues on with his previous thought. To him, the trip doesn’t justify taking hard classes because the hard classes justify themselves. “I’m not in Scholars for the trips — I’m in Scholars because I’m taking hard classes because I’m trying to get into a good college.” And that’s a pretty true statement for all of us. 

As students who continually hold ourselves to an almost punishing academic standard, we were going to enroll in the AP classes anyway. Yes, the trips are something to look forward to and enjoy, but they’re not what we’re working towards. 

Bella reaffirms this notion. “It’s a nice benefit. I wish [the trip] was a bit longer, but it was a nice getaway from school.”

The Scholars trip was eventful, that’s for sure. In the process of writing this account of our experiences, I had to sift through hundreds of little details I remembered. To be with classmates in an environment far removed from school or even Sacramento is reminiscent of the energy on an elementary school field trip. Everyone I talked to enjoyed their short break from school, even though it was packed with activity. We only spent one night but somehow, it felt much longer than a two day expedition. Surely, the memories will follow us years into the future, ones that we can look back on with bittersweet fondness.

But regardless of whether anyone else enjoyed themselves, Parker had a good time, and because this article is about him, that’s all that really matters.

This article is Parker Clymer-Engelhart Approved.
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