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Polk band makes last payment for trip to China for Olympics

In about five weeks, 44 Polk County High School band members will be leaving for China to participate in events related to the 2008 Olympics.

The students and their families recently made the final payment for the trip. A fundraiser to reimburse the families as much as possible will be held on May 25 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the high school. Barbecue will be provided by Polk County commissioner Harry Denton, and the band will provide live entertainment.

Band director Cindy Gilbert gave the Polk County School Board an update on the trip Monday. Gilbert said 44 students and 20 adults will be leaving from Atlanta on Sunday night, June 16. They will travel in two groups and will arrive in Shanghai, China on Tuesday around 3 p.m.

Gilbert said she has been trying to prepare the students for the different culture they will be exposed to in China. She said some students have never gone through customs before and she has been giving packing tips to help students pack lightly. The students also will take a lesson on using chopsticks properly during a buffet at China Dynasty. The students have also taken a class at Polk County Isothermal Community College to learn about China&squo;s history, culture and the language.

&dquo;The culture, the crowd will be much different than what they&squo;re used to in Polk County,&dquo; Gilbert said. &dquo;I&squo;ve really tried hard to prepare them.&dquo;

Gilbert also said for safety measures while they are in China, students will wear their passports around their necks and carry itineraries with them at all times. The itineraries will include hotel names and addresses so if someone gets separated, they can show the hotel name and address to a taxi driver to be taken back to the hotel.

Polk County School Supt. Bill Miller said the school system is also trying to work out a way to obtain laptops and cell phones for the group to take to China to keep in touch with their families. Miller also said some local business people have businesses in China and have said students can go to those businesses if they need anything while they are in China.