Sunday Times Secondary School of the Year 2023

St. Mary's Grammar School

New York Trip 2024 Student Review

At 3 A.M. on February 7th, 2024, a bus of 51 excited pupils and 6 staff left from St Marys, bound for the bright lights of New York City. Amongst the bus of Year 14s and staff, were our trip leader and vice principal, Mr McVey; our Head of Year 14, Mrs McNeill; our highly knowledgeable Business Studies and Economics teachers Mrs Johnston and Mr Francis; as well as other valued members of our school community; Michelle O’Donnell, our Study Centre supervisor and Andrea McConnell from front reception.

Despite not going on the trip due to the arrival of his new baby Cillian, Head of Business Studies and Economics, Mr McCauley deserves a lot of recognition for the effort and preparation he put into the trip, as well as the ‘Facetime’ catch ups across the pond.

The educational benefits of the trip to New York were invaluable, allowing us to explore elements contained within the specification in a regional, national and international context. Business highlights included visits to famous venues, such as Madison Square Garden and Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. The Madison Square Garden tour was very interesting.  Our tour guide was highly energetic and enthusiastic, which helped to keep morale high, despite the early 7am wake up. This created a lot of excitement, as we were heading to a New York Knicks Basketball game the following day. Unfortunately, on the night they were well beaten by the Indiana Pacers, however the atmosphere was electric and more than made up for the disappointment.

The tour of Hersey's Chocolate Factory, on the final day, was also interesting as our tour guide, Gretchen, provided us with advice for entering the business world, and gave us personal stories behind the chocolatier, making us feel personally connected with the company.

We also had the privilege of taking a guided tour around Wall Street, making a stop for pictures in the world-renowned Grand Central Station. Within our tour of Wall Street, we were also able to see and touch the ‘Charging Bull’.  Hopefully this charm will bring some good luck for the stock market, but more importantly, for our upcoming exams! Having a tour guide was very beneficial, as it allowed the tour to be tailored to suit our individual questions about the Financial District and stock exchange. 

This part of the trip was extremely relevant to our course and it was fascinating to see the hours of theory that have been studied, lived out. The tour guide was equally funny, often putting Mr Francis and Mrs Johnston on the spot, which helped to make the tour entertaining and engaging for us – and I can confirm, they passed all their tests with flying colours!

One of the most memorable nights of the trip included ice skating, under the city lights in Central Park. Despite many slips and falls, ice skating was a favourite of many, but definitely for Mr Francis, who was brilliant on the ice. Watching ‘Back to the Future’ on Broadway, on night one, was equally incredible, as well as going shopping on the third day to Jersey Mills Shopping Mall. This was very productive for the local economy as the pupils (and staff) contributed heavily, with many hours (and dollars) spent in stores unique to America - Sephora was a personal favourite of mine!

Our trip to New York would have been incomplete without Tim’s guided tour of Ground Zero. It was a very emotional experience for all of us as Tim shared poignant memories about the day and spoke candidly about the lasting effects on himself, as well as the wider city. Tim was phenomenal and helped us understand the relevance and gravity of visiting the site.

Unsurprisingly, food was another highlight, especially breakfast at the ‘West Way Diner’ every morning, and two dinner time visits to ‘Raising Cains’. Breakfast was always enjoyable, despite the early starts, as the food was always quality, and it was one of the few times we got to sit down and catch up with each other as a group. Breakfast was also a very useful time for us, as Mr Mc Vey was able to provide everyone with an overview of what each day would hold. One of the most important elements of the trip was the time we got to spend together, especially with staff like Andrea and Mr McVey, who we might not have been able to bond with otherwise. All the laughs, bright yellow coats, and relationships, were definitely the real highlights of the trip!

Our visit to New York was an unforgettable one for me personally, and I am sure all the rest of the pupils and staff who attended. Our thanks go to those who gave up some of their half term break to supervise us on our travels and I look forward to returning some day in the future.

Michaela Jane McDonnell, 14JME



New York Trip Feb 2024

Yr 14 Business Studies/Economics Students