Spring Break in Spain

Dream Academy visits Sevilla, Madrid, and Barcelona


Courtesy of Ruben Pizarro

At the Basilippo olive oil plant outside of Sevilla, Spain, the owner takes Dream Academy students Nicolas Padilla, Charlie Cerda-Lopez, April Verduzco, and Jatziry Barrera through a tasting of various olive oils.

Many students dream of traveling around the world but just don’t know where to start. With the Salinas Valley Dream Academy, students have the opportunity to travel to different countries and explore different cultures. 

The Dream Academy started in 2008 during President Obama’s first term, this was the first time that an African American was elected for president. Government teacher Ruben Pizarro had the idea to take his AP Government class to go see Obama’s inauguration. He and his students raised about $60,000 dollars in four months and sent 33 students to Washington D.C. for the historic inauguration.

Pizzaro decided to take a group of 66 students back when Obama was up for re-election in 2012. After that trip, Pizarro decided to turn his class club into a non-profit organization and started taking students from all over the Salinas Valley, changing the name to the Salinas Valley Dream Academy.  “Growing up I didn’t have any mentors or programs that could’ve made a difference in my life so I wanted to be the one who made that impact on other students,’’ Pizarro said.

Junior Liz Saldana has been part of the program for two years now, “I first joined this program because I was interested in traveling, but I was also interested in getting to meet new people, I’ve visited Spain, New York, and Washington DC; every trip I’ve been on with the Dream Academy has been an amazing experience my favorite part would have to be getting to try new food, I will definitely be traveling again with them next year.”

This year from March 22 – April 1, 2023, the Dream Academy went to Spain on their thirteenth trip, and visited three different cities – Sevilla, Madrid and Barcelona. He said he chose Spain because they hadn’t been there yet. “Overall, I think this is the best trip we’ve ever taken because of the students, flights, hotels, weather and various attractions that we went to,’’ Pizarro said. The reason he decided to pick Spain was because he thought it would be the best place to tour different monuments while also having more activities to do.

There were many different attractions that were shown to the students in which they were able to taste / create different foods, make their own art pieces, and overall just visit the city’s most known areas. According to Pizarro, his favorite attraction was an olive oil garden they visited when they were in Madrid. “They showed us everything from picking the olives to processing the olives to putting the olive oil into their jars, then we were able to taste it,’’ he said. 

Senior Arianna Saldana said, “My favorite part about the trip was getting to try new foods, and even though the pizza is basic, my favorite place to eat was a pizza restaurant in Madrid. It was just so fresh and so good.”

This summer The Dream Academy is planning on visiting Boston for three days and New York for six. While in Boston, Pizarro decided that they will be visiting Harvard, Yale and MIT. In New York, they will be visiting Columbia University and touring around the city’s most known monuments like Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building. “We chose to visit the most known Ivy League schools so that more Latino students can have the opportunity to see how it would be like to go to school there,” Pizarro said. For some, this trip will be their first time traveling with the dream academy. “I’m excited that I get to travel with the Dream Academy this summer. Something I’m looking forward to doing is getting to see Harvard because it’s one of my dream schools,” Isabella Arellano said.

Looking toward next year’s trip, Pizarro decided they will be going on an eleven day trip to Italy, visiting Venice, Florence, and Rome. They picked Italy because they usually do one European and one Domestic country per year. Junior Nico Hernandez said, “After hearing everywhere my friends went and seeing all the cool things they got to do when being in the dream academy it made me want to join it so I could travel next year.” 

Overall, a lot of the students who have joined the Dream Academy have said that they have had an amazing experience when it came to the places they got to visit to the people they got to meet, “My favorite memory was the night of reflection because we got to hear everyone’s stories and it would get emotional seeing people pour out their feelings which was really special because everyone had an impactful story,” junior Ximena Estrada said.