Eleven students have been chosen by their peers to represent Calhoun High School in the first leg of a cultural exchange trip to Pascagoula, Mississippi. This is the first time any school in the district has participated in such a program.
“We Facetimed with our host students and exchanged videos explaining what school life is like for each of us,” explained Caitlyn Tolchin.
The students, who depart on Feb. 23, are from the Leadership Class, which promotes community service and fosters leadership skills among students. They will double up with host families and spend one day shadowing their southern counterparts at school.
“I’m looking forward to learning more about their culture but also their food because it’s so much different than ours,” said Jack Roberts.
Melissa Schmidt said she has been following Snapchat where the Pascagoula students have been sending videos of traditional Mississippi fare for them to sample on their trip.
Accompanied by Leadership Class teacher Brian Joyce and Assistant Principal Ken Zisel, the students will attend a family-oriented Mardi Gras celebration hosted by the town. They are also being welcomed with a barbecue celebration that is expected to be attended by the school superintendent, mayor and other local dignitaries.
Zisel orchestrated the trip and told students during a planning meeting that they should be proud they were chosen and he hopes they “get everything they want out of an experience like this.”
Callie Ganca explained how they plan to create a video diary during their trip to chronicle their experiences and show their fellow classmates.
In April, their Pascagoula counterparts will visit Merrick, spending a day at Calhoun High School as well. The trip was partially funded by students’ fundraising but the remainder is being financed individually.
“We’ve already been talking to them about what they want to do when they are here and most of them have never been to New York City, so that seems to be on the top of the list,” added Roberts.