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Lew-Port eyes foreign shores High school students may be bound for China, Spain and Belgium

LEWISTON -- A cynical person might say Lewiston-Porter High School Principal Paul J. Casseri is trying to unload 60 pesky students for two or three weeks by sending them out of the country next April.

But that would be wrong.

Casseri expects to send about 20 French language students to Belgium, 20 Spanish language students to Spain and another 20 students to China because he feels the world is shrinking and it's important for American students to be exposed to other cultures and languages.

It's a solid strategy in a global economy, he said.

French teacher Marc P. Cousins, a native Parisian who lived in Brussels for 10 years as a youth, plans to take 15 to 20 students to Brussels for about two weeks.

"I moved there from Paris when I was 8 and lived there until I was 18," Cousins said. "I know Brussels like the back of my hand."

Spanish Teacher John S. Mango said he and teachers Gracelyn Bax and Jennifer Paterson expect to take about 25 students on a 10-day tour of Spain.

And Casseri, who recently returned from an 11-day stay in Tianjin, China, visiting Lew-Port's sister school, Tianjin No. 2 High School, said his staff has paved the way to creating an exchange program with their Chinese counterparts. He hopes to send 20 of his students to China for three weeks.

They will do fundraisers next semester to help pay for the trips.

Cousins said his contingent will stay with families and teenagers in Brussels who attend a high school called Notre Dame des Champs.

"That's good," he said, "because those students are struggling with their English like ours are with French. They'll be helping each other out. Our students will be attending that school. A whole class there that will be hosting us. . .

"A classroom experience is fine," he added, "but ultimately you have to make the bridge to the real world by being emersed in a different culture, and make the emotional connections with the language and the people.
That's very important. That's how things get fixated in a student's brain."

Mango said his students -- up to 25 -- will not live with families in Spain but will see a lot of the country by visiting places that include Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Cordoba, and will get lots of practical exposure to the Spanish language.

"They've learned a lot about the culture of Spain," Mango said. "Now they'll get to see some of the things we've talked about and studied.

"I hope to do home stays with families there in the future, but this time we'll be staying in hotels and experiencing flamenco dancing, studying the history of the matador at a bull farm, taking a cooking class in Spanish and doing a lot of cultural sightseeing, and interacting with people in Spanish. Our tour guide will be speaking only in Spanish to us."

Mango said Lew-Port had an active foreign travel program a long time ago. He credits Casseri with starting it up again.

Casseri may have started up the most significant exchange program the district has ever seen with its new sister school in China.

It began a year ago when he had four Chinese teachers from Tianjin No. 2 High School work at Lew-Port for 10 weeks, while staying with local families. During the recently completed school year, Casseri followed that up taking a six-member delegation from Lew-Port to China to "significantly cement our relationship with No. 2 High School."

As a result, Joseph Lauzonis, a social studies teacher who was part of the Lew-Port delegation, said, "We are looking at getting around 20 of our students to go there for three weeks next April" to attend classes and visit places like Beijing and The Great Wall.

Lew-Port is also looking at having 20 students from No. 2 School make a similar visit here. He hopes to eventually have a teacher exchange with No. 2 School where "we send our teachers there for a semester and they send their teachers here for a semester."

"Long range, I'd like to see us teaching Chinese at Lewiston-Porter High School," Lauzonis said. "I think this is a great opportunity with our link to No. 2 School to have native speakers become part of our teaching faulty, and for us to send teachers over to China to teach English."

Casseri said it's important for American schools to develop international connections with foreign schools especially in China.

"The world is getting smaller and smaller," he said. "We have to be able to communicate with China. In the next century our kids will have to be able to communicate with the Chinese and participate in their booming economy or we're going to be lost. Our country is a wonderful country. We have a lot of positive things. But so does China and we have to start working with [the Chinese]. It could help build up our economy in the future."


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