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South meets West, expands horizons

By Jeremiah Davis
Published: November 2008

In efforts to create a bond between their two schools, 40 Newton South and Urban Science Academy (USA) students of varied race, age, and gender participated in a two-day exchange. 20 students from USA visited South on October 29, and 20 students from South visited USA on November 3.

After visiting each school, the students met to discuss the experience. South students found USA, a small urban school in West Roxbury, very different from South. USA students do not have open campus and are not allowed any free blocks during the day. Their schedule is the same everyday, contrasting with the weekly block schedule at South.

USA students cannot wear hats during school and must address their teachers as “miss or “mister, without any last names.

According to Sumner, “[South] students were really impressed by how much more community-oriented USA felt.

The USA students were struck by the size of South’s campus and the amount of freedom available to students.

No one participating in the program said that they would be willing to switch schools, given the chance.

Junior Ross McDonald, a participant in the project, found the exchange to be a rewarding experience.

“It was worth having the experience and useful to gauge [my shadow's] experience versus mine. I found that [South students] are more privileged because we have the freedom to go anywhere and do almost anything, he said.

According to Sumner, the exchange was largely successful.

“The response was overwhelming. We are hoping to replicate it in the spring, she said.

The program was also set up in part by the Black Student Union (BSU), which funded the lunches bought by the South students at USA, and in part by the PTSO.

“The PTSO generously supported the project, South METCO Counselor Katani Sumner said.

Participants from South were chosen based on a questionnaire designed to determine interest in the project. Each student was paired with a USA student, who they shadowed throughout the visit, in hopes of experiencing school in an environment different from that which they are used to.

Salzer hopes that the program will become an annual event.

“As kids exchange from year to year, the teachers and the administrators get to know each other and learn from each other. The kids also develop friendships and can bring the best of both schools together, he said. “We hope for the same outcomes that we hope for from an international exchange, to build relationships with people from a different culture and a different community, but of the same age group.  We hope to learn from each other, and to build from it so it’s not just a one time experience but a long term friendship, Salzer said.

The next exchange is planned to take place in March 2009.

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