A scheduled visit from Chinese educators from Newtown’s sister schools in Liaocheng, China, for February 15 to 24 has Newtown International Center for Education (NICE) Program Coordinator and Newtown High School Assistant Principal Jason Hiruo reflecting on the history of the sister school relationships.
This year marks the fifth year of the NICE program, according to Mr Hiruo, known in its earliest stages as the China Initiative. When the visitors from China are in the school district, Mr Hiruo said some time will be spent reflecting on the past and future of the relationships.
Newtown, Mr Hiruo said, is now working with six schools in China, and partnerships with Japan and France are advancing. Mr Hiruo also sees partnerships with Spain and India on NICE’s horizon.
The success of NICE, Mr Hiruo said, speaks for support the program has found in the community.
The visiting delegates will stay with host families during their weeklong visit. They will attend Newtown schools and visit local sites, like Yale University in New Haven, and New York City. Mr Hiruo said 32 students will be visiting with the delegation, along with ten educators and administrators.
Part of the delegation’s visit will also be spent helping to ready a delegation of Newtown students and educators who will travel to China in April.
One struggle Mr Hiruo said NICE has faced from its inception is funding. The initiative has had some generous donations, Mr Hiruo said, but it is still seeking donations to help fund student scholarships, which will help students cover the cost to travel abroad. NICE, Mr Hiruo said, is also looking to create a library of books and films for student and educator use for cultural references.
Upcoming Trip To Japan
Also this week, NHS social studies teacher Jason Edwards will be traveling with students Mitch Roberts, Leah Wallace, and Faith Pereira to Kyoto, Japan, to represent the United States at a 30-country conference.
As the only group from the United States attending, the group will not only be representing Newtown but also the country. The group will also have the honor of opening the official conference with a welcome address, which Mitch said he has been working on for a while. The Newtown team will participate in an immersive learning experience that entails presentations, international collaboration, and critical analysis of global challenges our students face in the future, according to the high school’s blog, http://dumais.us/newtown/blog/?tag=japan.
The group will be at the forum from February 12 to February 18.
Faith said she loves “all things Japan and anime,” so she asked the NICE program how she could get involved. She started helping out with NICE programs, and eventually applied to be part of the group attending the forum.
“Now that it is getting so close it is really exciting,” said Faith, who said it will be fun to meet other students from around the world.
Mitchell said he knew the forum was being planned, and after seeing a presentation about it last year, he applied to be one of the attending students. He also said he is looking forward to going somewhere that is completely different from what he is used to in Newtown.
All of the students were interviewed and chosen to be part of the group.
“Being able to spend the majority of our time in Kyoto is going to be really cool,” said Mitchell. “It is really traditional Japanese, with lots of exciting things to do.”
Mitchell said he was chosen to speak during the opening of the conference after sending his “statement of theory” through.
“It’s going to be an introduction to the forum, welcoming everyone,” said Mitchell.
The students have also been working on a slideshow as part of the introduction, according to Mr Edwards.
The group of students were chosen to attend the forum in October.
Leah said she first heard about the program last year, the first year Newtown participated in the forum.
“I wanted to get involved with something,” said Leah, “so when I heard about the Japan trip doing interviews this year I decided to apply.”
Leah, too, said she is excited to meet new people.
One of the things Mr Edwards said he is most looking forward to was “chaperoning three great representatives of Newtown as they broaden their horizons too.”
Mr Edwards has been part of the NICE program since its inception, he said.
“I’m looking forward expanding my teaching horizons,” said Mr Edwards, “by a contact with another culture, one that I get to teach about in an ancillary or secondary way in some of the units in my social students class and my [advanced placement] government class.”
The trip to Japan will help further a sister school connection there, Mr Edwards said, and, with all the participating countries attending the forum, he said the opportunities to make further connections with schools around the world will be available.