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Field Trip Funding Was the Missing Link

Former US Ambassador Albert N. Williams was starting the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society in 1998 or 1999 and pulled together a board that included Patty Smith and Jeri Denniston. Working together to broaden local understanding of the two cultures (US and Mexico), Al, Jeri, and Patty formed a friendship that has lasted more than 30 years.


In 2002, Jeri became president of the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society while working as Community Relations Manager at The San Diego Union-Tribune. During a meeting Patty shared her story about taking a field trip on a school bus from Riverside’s Chemawa Junior High School and how it changed her life, setting her on a path to a life-long love of the arts. She ran an Art Gallery at the time. A project was born.


Jeri and Patty hosted a meeting at her gallery of arts venue representatives, school teachers, and the San Diego Unified School District’s school bus director. The common thread that arose was the lack of transportation funding for school field trips.


We learned that many San Diego Children had never left their neighborhoods or ventured outside the classroom to visit a museum, the theater or even a coastal tide pool. They were equally astonished to find that San Diego school districts did not have the funding to send each county K-12 student on a school field trip just once a year.



The mission and purpose had been identified!


What started as a way to fund transporting children and families across the border for cross-cultural experiences evolved into transporting students to arts venues across San Diego County.


But a name for the project was needed. Through additional meetings and brainstorming, the name was identified - ArtsBusXpress. Patty tapped one of her artists, Ros Hill, to design the logo, and the rest, as they say, is history.


On October 21, 2002, ArtsBusXpress (ABX) officially launched as a project of the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society at an outdoor event at Heritage Park in Old Town San Diego. Two busloads of students were brought to the park.


Senator Dede Alpert kicked off the festivities with a proclamation of ArtsBusXpress Day in San Diego. The San Diego Symphony Brass Quartet performed, and Ros Hill flew in from San Marcos, TX, to draw and sign pictures for students to take back to their classes.


Starting as a project to support only San Diego Unified School District schools, ABX quickly expanded to support all districts within San Diego County, thanks to donations from founding donors such as the Linda Brandes Foundation.


As STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities became more important, ArtsBusXpress expanded from just supporting field trips to the arts to include field trips to science and technology venues as well.


On March 16, 2006, ArtsBusXpress officially separated from the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society and became its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Since its founding in 2002, ArtsBusXpress has transported more than 200,000 students on “A Ride to the Arts and Sciences” throughout San Diego County.


Through this effort, ABX is committed to providing students access to rich, integrated in-depth learning experiences outside the classroom at more than 100 regional venues. The program is available to over 500,000 children in the 42 school districts and 646 schools in San Diego County.


In 2020 as COVID-19 forced school closures, ABX pivoted again to fund virtual field trip Xperiences. What started as a temporary solution to enhance student learning during the pandemic, has become a permanent offering as teachers requested both in person and virtual field trip options. ArtsBusXpress supports field trip Xperiences, with or without the bus! It’s about the Xperience!

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