Mrs. Paula Saillard, from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden raises money in an effort to take her French-speaking students on a trip to Paris

So far, Mrs. Paula Saillard and her students have raised $26,000 of their goal, $40,000.

So far, Mrs. Paula Saillard and her students have raised $26,000 of their goal, $40,000.

Ali Koenig, Eastside Staff

Five weeks before spring break, Mrs. Paula Saillard and her French students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, NJ received exciting news: They had raised enough money to travel to Paris.

Saillard, who taught French at Cherry Hill East for 16 years, has been wanting to take her students to Paris since she began teaching at Woodrow Wilson last April. Though she had taken students to France during her time at East, this trip is different. It is the first trip for which she (and her students) needed to fundraise.

Estimating that the seven-day trip would cost around $40,000, Saillard set up a GoFundMe page in December 2016. The money trickled in slowly from individual donors and foundations, but the GoFundMe remained near six thousand dollars for weeks. In late February, though, the fundraising effort really took off when it received media coverage. 6ABC Action News interviewed Saillard and some of her students. That news segment, as well as an interview on the La Gitana Radio Talk show and articles in the Courier Post and Philadelphia Inquirer, brought in thousands of dollars. Saillard’s cause has even been nominated for a chance to go on The Ellen Show.

“[The ABC News story] was a really big interview,” said Saillard. “That interview is one of the reasons we’re going.”

The GoFundMe page isn’t the only way Saillard has been raising money. Her students have been helping out as well by selling candy and cupcakes. Though most of their money has come from GoFundMe donations so far, Saillard said that her students have begun to fundraise more now that they know the trip is on. Currently at $26,000 of her $40,000 goal, she estimates that they will need around ten thousand dollars more for  various other trip expenses.

Saillard is taking 21 students and six teacher chaperones, as well as a few nurses. Her students, mostly juniors and seniors, are first- and second-level French students.

The trip to Paris will be semi-immersive, meaning the students will be encouraged to speak French at times. The itinerary includes going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, trying French foods and exploring several museums. Saillard is especially looking forward to the castle that they are staying in, the Château de Poigny, while her students are most excited to visit the Eiffel Tower. Saillard says that since the announcement of her plan for a trip at the beginning of the year, her students have been decorating their classroom with Parisian monuments, particularly the tower, that they made out of Q-Tips.

          Saillard said that her main goal for this trip is for her students to get a chance to see how big the world is, since many of them have never left New Jersey. “It’s a tough place to live, and they’re such great kids… they deserve the chance for a better life.”

Saillard is confident that the trip will be a success and plans to repeat it with future students. “It was hard, but just the fact that we were able to raise the money shows that we can do it again,” she said. “I think that next time, [raising the money] won’t be so hard.”