Steve Boyce, College For Every Student program director, joins students and teachers from Dole Middle School in the Ka Ha’aheo O Kalihi section of Honolulu during a visit to Ticonderoga Middle School.
Despite being shocked by nearly a foot of snow on their arrival, a group of Hawaiian students visiting Ticonderoga Middle School feel right at home.
“I sense the ‘ohana spirit,” said Karlene Kauleinamoku. “Everyone is very welcoming. I feel a sense of family here.”
Part of Hawaiian culture, ‘ohana means family. It emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.
Kauleinamoku, a teacher at Dole Middle School in the Ka Ha’aheo O Kalihi section of Honolulu, is part of a group of six students and two teachers visiting Ticonderoga March 19-24 as part of a College For Every Student exchange program.
It’s the second time Dole students have visited Ticonderoga. Ti students went to Hawaii two years ago and hope to return in 2014.
“These two schools are just about as far apart as you can get,” said Steve Boyce, CFES program director. “We (CFES) feel very strongly students need to be able to handle diversity. This is an opportunity for students from both schools to learn about each other and themselves.”
CFES, based in Essex, is a non-profit organization committed preparing students for college. It works with 200 rural and urban schools in 24 states.
The greatest lesson, according to Ti Middle School Principal John Donohue, may have nothing to do with differences.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for kids from both schools to learn about diversity,” Donohue said. “Not just the obvious cultural differences, but the way our schools operate, they way we live. In the end, though, I think the most important thing is that they learn kids are kids everywhere. They have more in common than they realize.”
“Certainly there are differences, but they (students) are adolescents and they act like adolescents,” she said. “Some days they impress you, other days you wonder what they’re thinking.”
There sure are differences. While Ticonderoga was in the midst of snow storm when the Hawaiian contingent arrived, it was 80 degrees in Honolulu. While Ticonderoga has about 5,000 residents, Honolulu County has nearly 1 million.
“It’s cold and it’s small,” said Sadie Theodore, a Hawaiian seventh grader. “But I like it here. Everyone’s nice. This is a wonderful opportunity and experience.”
The Hawaiian visitors are staying with host families in Ticonderoga and are assigned “buddies” — Ti students — to shadow during the school day. While in the North Country they will visit Fort Ticonderoga, attend the Ti High Pops concert, make trips to St. Mary’s and Crown Point schools, go snowshoeing, go sledding, take part in a CFES workshop in Essex, tour Essex Farm and visit other local landmarks.
“It’s a busy week for everyone,” said Heather York, Ti’s CFES liaison. “We want them to experience as much as possible while here.”
The Hawaiian students will also play teacher, presenting programs to local students on their home state and school.
“We want people to learn about Honolulu and Hawaii,” Kauleinamoku said. “Part of our learning experience is teaching others about us.”
Kauleinamoku hopes the Ticonderoga-Dole exchange program can continue.
“We had such a wonderful experience in Ticonderoga during our first visit we decided to try and make it an every-other-year exchange,” she said. “When Ticonderoga was able to visit Hawaii the experience became even better.”
Students from the two school raise money to pay for the trips. Students who make the visits are selected through an essay contest.
Boyce said other CFES have similar exchange programs, through not with a school in Hawaii. Willsboro Central School, he noted, sends students to Wadleigh Middle School in Harlem.
“It’s all about exposing kids to as many different things and people as possible,” he said.