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Local Medina County News

Highland High School celebrates cultural connections

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    Students from La Salle San Ildefonso High School in Spain dance the “Macarena” during a cultural exchange program Wednesday night at Highland High School.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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    Students from Nanwu High School in China perform a song during a cultural exchange program Wednesday night at Highland High School.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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    Singing their school’s alma mater, Highland High School students conclude a World Academic Summit that also featured students from China, France and Spain on Wednesday night.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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Highland High School brought together teachers and students from three international sister schools Wednesday night for a World Academic Summit.

The evening presented a crowd of more than 100 students and families the opportunity to hear and learn about other cultures.

“Our goal tonight is to introduce to you what the intercultural experience is all about,” Principal Dana Addis said.

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Students from Nanwu High School in China perform a song during a cultural exchange program Wednesday night at Highland High School.

HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge

Seven teachers and 60 students from La Salle San Ildefonso High School in Spain, Lycee Prive Jean Cassaigne High School in France and Nanwu High School in China arrived Sept. 30 to visit Highland. The exchange students have attended classes at the high school and the Medina County Career Center.

“I’m thrilled to see families and students learn about the culture,” said Darla Miller, supervisor of the Intercultural Program.

A video was shown that featured students and staff at Highland as well as schools in China, France and Spain all sharing how the Intercultural Program impacted their life.

They all shared common goals: To learn the culture, food, improve their language and make new friends.

“I think (the) most important thing about the program is not only learning about culture and new language but linking people from different parts of the world and sharing values and friendships,” Santiago Morales G￳mez, a teacher from Spain, said. “It opens our minds and knowledge of the world.”

Exchange students from each country gave a performance illustrating their culture.

Students from Nanwu played “The Cup Song” by Anna Kendrick and performed a song and dance.

The group from La Salle performed dances to three songs, including the “Macarena.” From Lycee, three students performed songs for the audience.

Highland students concluded the evening by singing the school’s alma mater.

About the program

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Singing their school’s alma mater, Highland High School students conclude a World Academic Summit that also featured students from China, France and Spain on Wednesday night.

HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge

Highland students who are taking a foreign language course — Mandarin Chinese, French or Spanish — may travel to their designated country for 10 days over winter and/or spring break. About 15 students and three teachers participate in the exchange program from Highland and each sister-school every year.

In five years, the Intercultural Program has brought more than 120 students from China, Spain and France to Highland and more than 65 Highland students have studied abroad.

“We’ve had amazing visits there and here and I’m just excited to have everyone together,” Addis said. “We’ve formed lifelong relationships with them. This experience has been instantly gratifying with students and all of our buildings.”

Exchange students and teachers are assigned to a Highland host family and Highland students are assigned to a host family abroad.

“We have a waiting list … our families are eager to host the exchange students and these teachers,” district community relations director Dawn Marzano said. “There is a tremendous amount of support for this program.”

The sister-school partnership began with China after Highland Mandarin Chinese teacher Yang Zhang, known as “Sunny,” brought the idea to Addis. The principal said he was interested and formed the partnership with Nanwu High School in Guangzhou, China, in the summer of 2012.

Four teachers and 20 students from China visited Highland in February 2013.

“They were the first of our sister schools to travel here,” Addis said.

In March 2013, five Highland teachers, including Addis, and 15 students visited China.

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Students from La Salle San Ildefonso High School in Spain dance the “Macarena” during a cultural exchange program Wednesday night at Highland High School.

HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge

“We’ve had exchange programs with them for four years,” Addis said.

In 2014, Highland formed a partnership with La Salle San Ildefonso in Santa Cruz Tenerife, Spain. The most recent sister-school partnership was developed last year with Lycee Prive Jean Cassaigne High School in Saint Pierre de Mont, France.

“They were all formed during different years but for the first time ever, we have all four schools together here at Highland,” Addis said.

The 2015-16 school year was the only time students did not study abroad because of an international travel alert, Marzano said.

The Intercultural Program offers Highland students global experiences. It enhances learning in the classroom by introducing new cultures to students through history, geography, arts, science and other lessons. The program is supported by the Highland Foundation.

Superintendent Cathy Aukerman originally initiated the Mandarin Chinese language program to be offered to Highland High School students eight years ago. The course then was offered to junior high students.

Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or hheironimus@medina-gazette.com.



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