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Gompers seniors are Rome-bound

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The Roman Coliseum. Business on Gun Hill Road. Different continents, different cultures, different eras. Yet related, at least for a group of Samuel Gompers High School seniors eager to learn.

Months ago, Gompers teacher Nicole Mader challenged her students to dream a trip to Europe. Then Mader asked them to make it happen. The group of 20-some seniors has raised 30,000 for the trip, thanks to sponsors in the Bronx.

After school and on weekends, Marlon Daniels and some of his best friends trudge up and down busy corridors such as Gun Hill Road to ask for help, homemade brochures in hand. They’ve learned as much about Bronx business as they’ll learn about ancient Europe in Rome.

Many storeowners shoo the students away. Some employees give them the run-around. “To look for sponsors has been hard,” Daniels said.

But the Rome-bound seniors have also hosted bake sales and school dances, designed t-shirts and pins. When school was canceled due to snow, the group shoveled driveways to earn more money for the trip. Italian storeowners on Arthur Avenue counseled the teens on where to go in Rome.

“I’m proud of my students,” Mader said.

Mader taught Daniels and his friends history when they were only freshman and sophomores. She has been a mentor to the group ever since. Mader helped her students start a literary magazine; many are artists and authors.

“I fell in love with these kids,” Mader said. “We stayed close.”

Denzel Rodgers, a 16-year old Parkchester resident, will head to Rome with the group for spring break in late March.

“We’re a good bunch of kids,” Rodgers said. “We’re motivated.”

Rodgers is pumped for the trip. He’s never been outside of the United States. But Rodgers has passed three Advanced Placement history courses.

“I’m excited to see all the sites in Rome,” he said. “There’s so much history there.”

Rodgers, who volunteers at a daycare in his spare time, has applied to SUNY schools, CUNY schools and several private colleges. He hopes to study journalism.

He expects to return from Europe “a more well-rounded person.” Rodgers wants to acquire, in his words, “a global education.”

Daniels, 17, thanked Mader.

“She’s been the backbone,” the E. 167th Street resident said.

Daniels has also applied to SUNY and CUNY schools; his top pick is SUNY Cortland. Daniels hopes to major in criminology and become a firefighter. In Rome, he’ll head straight to the Coliseum and the Roman aqueducts.

“I really want to see the Pope,” Daniels said. “But I doubt I will.”

Mader traveled abroad when she was in high school. The fourth-year teacher is sure that the trip to Europe will open her students’ eyes.

“I want them to know what’s out there,” she said.

Daniels, whose family comes from Grenada, has some idea what Mader means.

“I hope Rome doesn’t ruin the Bronx for me,” he said. “But do hope I get to taste another culture.”

The group still needs $15,000. Education First Tours will manage the trip. To help, visit http://gompers2rome.chipin.com.

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