BFA Fairfax Students Share their Chinese Cultural Exchange Camp with Congress!

Target 2 Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher and student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Step  Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community.

Indicator  Student voice will have the power to impact the perception of others.

The week before Thanksgiving Break, four BFA Fairfax High School Students traveled to Senator Bernie Sander’s office in Burlington to meet with the Senator’s staffers and Spiral International representatives to share their experiences as Student Ambassadors for the BFA Fairfax Chinese Cultural Exchange Program.

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BFA Chinese Cultural Exchange Camp 2013

For the past three years, BFA Fairfax has hosted over 30 Chinese Students and 2-3 Chinese teachers. The students and teachers stay with American host families, attend classes focused on Conversational English and American Cultural in the mornings, and take Field Trips to experience area cultural interests in the afternoons.

One of our Student Ambassadors offered several blog posts about their experiences this summer!

The Ambassadors shared the following thoughts about the Exchange Camp with the Senator’s staffers:

“The best part of the Summer Exchange program is having the opportunity to make new friends, and teach them about my country while learning about theirs. I love the bonds that I form with these students, and having the ability to shape their trip to the United States into something they’ll remember forever.” — Victoria Brown

“The best part of the summer exchange program was making new friends and getting to know what their personalities were like.  I enjoyed teaching them about our culture and seeing their reactions to what we might take for granted.  It was also interesting to learn about their culture as well.”  –Ashley Williams

“What did I learn by being an ambassador? In school we don’t get to learn about the lifestyles of kids our age around the world – let alone China. We really only learn about education or government and history and compare it to our own. Because of this, we can’t really help but make up stereotypes about other people and how they live their lives. Being able to meet and spend time with the Chinese students erased any preconceived ideas I had about them. It opened my eyes to how similar everyone in the world is even though we live in places with such different living conditions.” –Faith Sampson

“I learned a great deal of leadership as an Ambassador. I learned the most about their life at school. They are very passionate about their school work and they go to school for much longer than we do. I could see that they were amazed by the littlest of things. It was such a great experience.”  — Asa Hoover

BFA China Camp Ambassadors

BFA China Camp Ambassadors

The importance of the opportunity for students to share experiences with the Senator’s Office, is best summed up by Victoria and Ashley:

“I saw this opportunity as a once in a life time sort of chance.”

“This experience was really valuable. It brought me out of comfort zone to talk to people who would help shape our government. I enjoyed being able to share my experience with someone who didn’t really know much about it. We were able to show that a little place like Fairfax is involved in a program that could ultimately make advances in exchange programs, and cultural interaction.” 

BFA Fairfax Seeks Host Families for 4th Annual China Camp!

BFA Fairfax is excited to participate in its 4th annual Chinese Cultural Exchange Camp.  This two-week program offers English language immersion for Chinese students and an amazing cultural education opportunity for BFA students and families. And we need your help!

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China Camp 2013

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Visiting Chinese students explore Shelburne Farms

In order to make this program possible BFA must secure host families now for approximately 30 visiting Chinese students and two Chinese teachers. The commitment is simple: house two students for two weeks, and receive a stipend of $200 per student to help with expenses. These students are in school during weekdays from 8am-5pm.

The two-week exchange will take place in July 2014. Transportation is available.  Don’t have an extra bed? One can be provided!  Have a previous engagement during the exchange? We can help find a temporary housing while you are away!  We are happy to accommodate your needs.

If you are even a little bit intrigued, please take the next step and ask any questions that may have. Many families that have hosted in the past would be happy to share their experiences with you. The program depends on the continued support of our community!

vbrown“My American classmates and I would mentor Chinese students. My new friends were fascinating! Every time I taught them an English word, they’d teach me the Chinese version. We were learning together. Yumy and Jojo had quickly become much more than my mentees, classmates and friends; they felt like family.” – Victoria Brown, Sophomore & 2013 Student Mentor and Host Family

You might be surprised at just how much of a difference this opportunity makes in the lives of the students and families with a simple exchange of culture, ideas, and friendship. Host families must be secured by October 31, 2013 to make this program possible, so act now and make plans to welcome these visiting students into our community!

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity. Learn more by contacting Sara Villeneuve or Rachelle LeVau.

Chinese Cultural Exchange at BFA Celebrates Successful Third Year

Target 4Engaged Community Partners – FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Develop partnerships with global partners to carry out a project related to units of study.

Three summers ago BFA High School welcomed 30 students from China. The goal of the project was to give students from China a chance to learn in Vermont. At that time we thought the benefit was just for the visiting students.

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However, we now know that the exchange has had a tremendous impact on our own BFA students as well. This summer over 20 BFA students served as learning ambassadors and spent two weeks working with our exchange students.

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The connections made during this exchange are experiences that will last a lifetime. And although our exchange has formally ended, the relationships developed between students and host families will continue.

photo (14) photo (88)Finally a big thank you to Katie Mack, Geri Witalec and Mike Clark for putting together this amazing learning opportunity.

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We invite you to click the image below to view a video to get a closer look at this wonderful experience!

Plans Underway for BFA Chinese Cultural Exchange Camp 2013

Target 4Engaged Community Partners:  FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Develop partnerships with global partners to carry out a project related to units of study.

We are in the early stages of planning our Chinese Cultural Exchange Camp for summer 2013. This will be our third year hosting the camp. We are looking for 16 families as we will again host 30 Chinese students and two Chinese teachers.

mbrown#2The feedback we receive from host families about their experience continues to be very positive. Many have shared that they were surprised how quickly their time with visiting Chinese students passed. The connections between students and host families is remarkable.

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The two-week Chinese Cultural Exchange camp is scheduled for sometime between June 23 and July 15, 2013. We should have the specific dates confirmed by the beginning of March. The students attend school every weekday from about 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon. They engage in learning about American Culture, practicing conversational English, and seeing the sites Vermont has to offer. Students eat lunch at school and we can also help out with transportation if needed.

bowl 2Host families receive a stipend to assist with hosting costs. The exchange students can share a room but do need to have their own bed (last year we were able to help by providing an extra bed to a family). Host families provide breakfast and dinner for the students and entertain on the weekends – students tend to really want to go shopping! In the past, many of the host families have coordinated together with the students for group activities such as blueberry picking, bonfires, tie-dyeing, BBQ’s, hiking or just eating ice cream.

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Students at BFA Fairfax serve a mentors to their Chinese friends throughout the exchange. They continue to report that this has been a great experience with lasting benefits. Both families and mentors share that they continue to keep in touch with their visiting Chinese students.

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In order for us to provide this opportunity again, we must have enough host families committed to housing our Chinese guests. We are asking families who are interested in hosting to complete an application and return it to BFA Principal Michael Clark by March 15th.

SPIRAL International is our partner in this endeavor once again. spiralSPIRAL is an educational organization located in VT. It promotes cross-cultural learning and understanding through international students exchange programs. It also offers consulting services, workshops and seminars to help American students, teachers, scholars and business people learn about other cultures.

If you have any questions about becoming a host family, please contact Principal Clark at (802) 849-6711 or mclark@fwsu.org.

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You will not want to miss this exciting opportunity!

BFA Chinese Student Exchange Makes a Lasting Impact

Target 4Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Develop partnerships with global partners to carry out a project related to units of study.

This week BFA student Victoria Brown became a paid professional journalist for the very first time! Victoria’s writing was featured this month in KidsVT and she recounted her summer experience hosting a student from China in her home.

I had convinced my family to take part in my school’s SPIRAL International exchange program. Over the course of the two-week camp, my American classmates and I would mentor Chinese students, teaching them English and taking them on field trips. At the end of each day, they’d come home with us.

This was a first for my family. But I’d been wanting to host exchange students ever since I heard about the SPIRAL program from my friends who participated last year. I was curious about these kids, their language, and their culture.

Victoria stated that she has been part of BFA’s exchange program for the past two summers. BFA has hosted over 30 students from China. The program requires families who choose to participate to open their homes and hearts to students from China. The students come to learn English and absorb American culture, but they also end up teaching us so much about their culture and language as well.

As the days went by, I began to feel more comfortable with everyone. I chose to sit with the exchange students, rather than with my fellow mentors, whenever we rode the bus. I liked hearing how different their schools are — in China the school day goes until 10 p.m., with a break halfway through for a nap. My new friends were fascinating. The best part? They seemed as interested in me as I was in them. Every time I taught them an English word, they’d teach me the Chinese version. We were learning together.

At the program’s closing ceremony, it was hard to keep myself from crying. I broke down afterward while hugging my new friends, knowing I might never see them again. Yumy and Jojo had quickly become much more than my mentees, classmates and friends; they felt like family. I hadn’t expected to become so close to them, and neither had the rest of my family. When Yumy and Jojo returned to China, it took us a few weeks to get used to life without them.

Victoria’s international journey in life is only just beginning  This summer she plans on attending the People-to-People Celtic Cultures Exchange in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. We are all proud to have Victoria as an ambassador from our school and community.

When BFA started the Chinese student exchange, our hope was to open the world a little to our students. Little did we know the profound effect we have had on the lives of all who were or will be involved in the exchange.

Saying Goodbye

Our second year of the BFA High School Chinese Cultural Exchange Camp with 30 visiting students from China has come to a close. It was another amazing experience for all of the students and families who were involved. It is always hard to believe how much impact visiting students have on a family in just two short weeks. It was also fun “showing off” our communities and State to our visitors.

Thank you to all of the host families from Fairfax, Fletcher, and Georgia. And a big thank you to  Lead Teacher and Exchange Coordinator Katie Mack, Site Coordinator Mike Clark, Activities Director Geri Witalec, and Home Coordinator Rev. Elizabeth Griffin.

Even as we say goodbye to our visiting students, BFA is already making plans to host China Camp 2013!

BFA China Camp Visits Shelburne Farms

Since their arrival on Monday, our visiting students from China are settling into Vermont high school routine quite quickly. Rumor has it that many of them want to stay up late until 1:00am! English class each morning has been lively and the students are really enjoying their interactions with our BFA student instructional leaders. Each afternoon, our visiting friends travel to a destination that is quintessentially Vermont. Yesterday, they experienced Shelburne Farms. The highlight? Definitely the “Great Chicken Roundup!”