PAWTUCKET — Continuing an exchange program that began last year, a group of 11 Shea High School students is bound for China this April.
Shea High School Principal Chris Lord announced that the second annual two-week visit to Heng Shui High School in the Hebei Province of China will be taking place and that fundraising efforts have begun. The exchange program that began last year was initiated by former Schools Supt. Hans Dellith, who visited China with a group of other Rhode Island educators as part of an exchange initiative.
As part of the program, a group from Shea, which includes 11 students and two teachers serving as chaperones, will live and attend classes at Heng Shui High School from April 12 to 26. In June, Shea High School will reciprocate and a group of students and their chaperones from Heng Shui High will come to Pawtucket and attend school at Shea. Besides offering an experience in each others' educational and cultural environments, both host schools offer an itinerary that includes plenty of sightseeing.
The students selected to travel to China (barring any missteps with grades or other factors) are: Kandice Ko, Olivia Figueira, Tiara Heredia, Eric Geisman, Zachary Bettencourt, Darlene Cante, Tatyana Leite, Deiccy Cuartes, Liana Weeks, Emily Teixeira and Kassandra Florez. Two alternates have also been selected: Alexandria Baez and Christy Guerrero. Accompanying the students as chaperones are Barbara Fell, an English and ESL teacher, and Ricardo Pimental, an English and drama teacher.
While excited about the opportunity for the Shea students, Lord said that substantial fundraising will be necessary in the coming months. While some corporate donations have been promised, and Collette Vacations, as it did last year, has offered to help with finding discount pricing on flights, Lord noted that the cost of the trip amounts to about $2,000 per student. He said the high school is trying to do what it can to help the students defray their costs, including sponsoring several fundraising events.
The first of the fundraisers is a “China Bound Vendor Fair” planned for Thursday, Dec. 2, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Shea Library Reference Room. Representatives from various companies will be on hand with holiday merchandise and gift ideas that include Lia Sophia jewelry, Madison Handbags, cookware and kitchen items from The Pampered Chef and Tupperware, cosmetics and perfumes from Avon, and specialty food items from Tastefully Simple and Wicked Kickin' Savory Cheesecake.
The vendor Cash For Gold will also be offering money on the spot for unwanted gold, silver, jewelry, coins and other items that are brought in.
Besides having to do some saving up and fundraising on their own, the China-bound students have begun attending weekly after-school meetings with Barbara Fell and Ricardo Pimental to prepare for their journey. The initial meetings will focus on fundraising, Fell said, and the students will be asked to come up with some ideas on how to generate revenue to offset the trip's hefty price tag. In addition to the Vendor Fair, the students will be selling candy bars and there are plans for an upcoming raffle and coupon calendar program.
Fell said she recently purchased the Rosetta Stone language learning program to give the students some basics in the Chinese language spoken in the province they will be visiting. She and Pimental also plan to discuss things like what to expect from the culture, some of the unusual foods that they might find themselves eating, the learning atmosphere at the high school level, and ways to prepare for the 18-hour flight. “It's a great way for them to see different cities and see how the schools are run,” said Fell, who added that she thinks the students will be the most surprised by the much more formal and structured educational methods of China.
Both Fell and Pimental said they are well-traveled themselves, and have experience in dealing with cultural transitions, language differences, and the monotony and jet lag that can accompany a lengthy flight. Pimental added that besides the flight, he thinks the students will have to learn to adjust to the dining experience. “For example, there is no ice. Everything is eaten warm there,” he noted.
The students, selected from a pool of applicants based on their grades and level of interest, expressed excitement about the trip. “I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to experience China,” said Zach Bettencourt, and Eric Geisman, the only other male besides Bettencourt who signed up for the journey, agreed about the unique travel destination.
“I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It seemed like a good opportunity to take part in,” said Kassandra Florez. Fellow traveler Emily Teixeira also said that she jumped at the chance to not only visit China but to see firsthand how high school students live in the far away land.