COLRAIN, Mass. (AP) — Ryann Stacy is soon heading to the ‘‘white continent’’ at the bottom of the world.
The Hotchkiss School junior, who lives in Colrain with her mother Linda, father Barry, and 19-year-old brother, Dana, when she isn’t away at the Connecticut boarding school, has always dreamed about traveling, but never thought one of her first ‘‘big trips’’ would be to a place so remote that very few people ever see it in person.
Ryann has always been adventurous, according to her parents. She was on an off-road motorcycle when she was 4 years old and now races motocross in Winchester, N.H. She plays lacrosse and field hockey and has decided to get into pole vaulting. She dives.
‘‘She’s the one who will dive 30 feet into the water while the boys stand back and watch,’’ said her mother.
Ryann will leave for Antarctica with 89 other Hotchkiss students on Saturday and will return home Jan. 22. She'll miss a week of school, the rest is winter break, and the school will give other students that week off, she said.
‘‘I'm so excited,’’ she said.
The 16-year-old student said she got the opportunity to go on the school-sponsored trip after writing an essay to the dean of students about why she'd like to go and why the school should want her to go. She had to explain what she thought she could contribute to the school when she returns and what she thought she'd take away from it all.
Of the 597 students at Hotchkiss, 15 boys and 15 girls were chosen from the sophomore, junior and senior classes.
‘‘I wrote the typical ‘It’s the opportunity of a lifetime’ start,’’ said Ryann.
A scholarship student at the prestigious coeducational prep school, Ryann said she thought she could bring a ‘‘different perspective’’ back to her classmates, because some of them have had the means to take trips like this one throughout their entire lives.
‘‘I also wrote that I could help other students on the trip if they were having problems being away from home, because I don't,’’ she said. ‘‘And, I've always been interested in animals, and maybe want to study them in college.’’
When asked what she'd like to bring back from her trip, Ryann quipped ‘‘a baby penguin,’’ which, of course, she cannot. ‘‘There are strict rules about penguins,’’ she said. ‘‘We have to stand at least 15 feet from them, but, if they come up to us, we can ... touch them.’’
Ryann said the trip, which is being funded by the owner of the Mars (candy) Corp., Forrest E. Mars Jr., who attended Hotchkiss and now has a grandchild going there and on the trip, will start in Santiago, Chile.
‘‘We'll spend New Year’s Eve there,’’ she said.
From there, the group will head to Ushuaia, Argentina, where students and Hotchkiss teachers and staff will board a cruise ship for South Georgia, a British Island between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica.
The trip is meant to be fun and educational, with a series of lectures on the flora, fauna and history of Antarctica being given on the four-day cruise to the bottom of the world. South Georgia is one of the most remote islands in the world and has a mountainous, rugged interior, according to Hotchkiss. Students will head to the beaches and plains of the island while docked there and each night, when students get back on the ship, there will be lectures to recap the day.
Finally, from Jan. 14 through Jan. 18, students will explore the Antarctic peninsula.
‘‘I can’t wait,’’ said the former Bement School student.
She said the group will cruise the ‘‘top of the bottom of the world’’ and show students its icebergs and wildlife, including penguin colonies.
‘‘We’re just so excited for her,’’ said her parents. ‘‘We won’t hear from her unless there’s an emergency,’’ said Linda Stacy. ‘‘They can’t bring computers and their cellphones won’t have service most of the trip.’’
Barry Stacy said he has a lot of confidence in his daughter. ‘‘She'll do just fine away from us,’’ he said. ‘‘There are going to be lots of rules and they'll keep our kids safe.’’
Her parents said they, and all of her other family and relatives, are jealous. ‘‘We won’t be able to wait to hear all about it,’’ said her father.
Ryann said the only other thing she'd like to take away from the trip is more friendships.
‘‘I don’t know many of the students going, so this will be a good opportunity to change that,’’ she said.