Oct. 7, 2013
Visiting student program expands community borders, eases enrollment concerns
Nestled in the rural Hilltowns of the Capital Region, the BKW district is a place that generations of families with “deep roots” are proud to call home. It’s not uncommon for students, once they’ve graduated from high school or gone off to college, to return to this unique community to make their living and raise families of their own.
In recent years, however, the quaint BKW setting—along with many of its rural school counterparts— has experienced its own set of problems in the form of declining enrollment and funding issues. In the 2011-12 school year, BKW’s Board of Education began looking for solid solutions to the impact these issues have had on the district.
“The Board has thought long and hard about how to bring increased funding and enrollment to the district in ways that will also enrich BKW's program and showcase what makes the district and community a unique place to live and learn,” explained Interim Superintendent Lonnie Palmer. “The International Student Program is one of the ideas that came into being during the Board’s work.”
The idea for an International Student Program, which brings interested students from around the world to BKW to live for a school year and learn, came from a visit by the Board to the Newcomb School District in the Adirondacks. There, the Board learned about the significant impact on enrollment and cultural awareness a program like this could have. Not only did the increase in international students boost enrollment in Newcomb, but the international program attracted more local families to the area who wanted to benefit from the access to global culture. The BKW Board thought adding a program like this would be a good way to introduce students from other countries to the small-town American charm of the Hilltowns and help expand BKW students’ understanding international culture, too.
Late last school year, BKW received approval from the
United States Government to become an international student host.
Beginning this year, BKW is hosting its first three international
students. They are:
• Camila Cometa Garcia, Grade 12, from Neiva, Capital of the Department of Huila, Colombia
• Nico Padros Creus, Grade 9, from Barcelona, Spain
• Isadora Mazon De Mello, Grade 11, from São Paulo, Brazil
In their own words: Here’s what our new students have to say about learning and living in BKW:
Camila Cometa Garcia
Home: Neiva, Capital of the Department of Huila, Colombia
Host: BKW Cheer Coach Amanda Allen
First impressions of Berne/the Hilltowns: It is very different here, but good. I arrived in New York City, which was very busy and much different from the city where I live in Colombia, on Sept. 6 and traveled to Berne on Sept. 7. I have had to get used to the way of eating in this country—in Colombia our main meal is at noontime, here the idea is to start with a full breakfast and a heavier meal in the evening, which I am not yet used to. It is very beautiful in Berne, and I am looking forward to traveling around and learning about this area.
First impressions of the high school: Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. The students here who have taken a few Spanish classes are excited to practice their Spanish with me, and I am having many opportunities to practice my English. I like the classes I am taking, but am needing some help with my history class—it is a university-level course and all about US history, which I don’t yet understand. The students in the class are very nice and are giving me extra-help with this. Also, in my high school in Colombia we did not pass between classes, instead the teachers came to us for different subjects and I stayed in the same room with the same group of students. The way things work here is taking some getting used to.
Involved in any extracurriculars? I practice with the soccer team and am taking Tae Kwon Do through the school’s club.
Why did you choose to study abroad? In Colombia we graduate from high school in our 11th grade. I want to study engineering when I go to university next year, but my English needs to be very good so that I can do well with the scientific courses I will need to take. I hope to improve my English and learn more about a new place and culture while I am here.
Isadora Mazon De Mello
Home: São Paulo, Brazil
Host family: The Salo family: Katherine, Ann and Tony
First impressions of Berne/the Hilltowns: Actually, I've never been to a country-area because I live in the city [São Paulo, Brazil] but it's very nice because it is far away from everything so you can relax and you don't have noise around you. The view is very good! We have a lake close by, it's so beautiful. In the mornings the sun comes up over the lake and it's awesome, I really like it.
First impressions of the high school:
It's a small school but everyone that's [I have talked with has
been] so interested in where I came from and my country.
I like the area around the school and that they have pianos! (She has played piano for 10 years, since age 6.)
The teachers are very good here, there are very nice and helpful.
Involved in any extracurriculars? Not yet. I thought about volleyball, but I like dance. I take tap, Irish dancing and hip hop and if I played volleyball here I couldn't dance.
Why did you choose to study abroad? I wanted to know about a different culture. Everyone in Brazil does it; they like it very much. It's an experience that you will never forgot. You'll get more mature because you're here with another family that you don't know anything about and at a school where you don't know anyone so you're by yourself and you do your own thing. I really want to come to college in New York because I want to be an actress. It's very hard, I know, but in Brazil it's even harder! I am thinking seriously about coming back.
Is there anything else you hope to experience? To have good friends that live here. To do things that I couldn't do in Brazil. Like snow, I don't have it, so I want to do what we see in the movies, like skiing. I want to learn about New York and see other places, like Boston and Washington DC. I would like to learn about the United States.
Nico Padres Creus
Home: Barcelona, Spain
Host: BKW Secondary School Principal Brian Corey
First impressions of Berne/the Hilltowns: It is very different from where I am from in Spain since Barcelona is a city…there I am able to walk or take the bus to get to where I am going…but it is good. Everyone has been very nice and I really like where I am staying…Mr. Corey is very funny!
First impressions of the high school: Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly.
Involved in any extracurriculars? I play soccer with the BKW Varsity Boys team, which is a sport I have played since I was a young, and am also trying Tae Kwon Do, which is new to me.
Why did you choose to study abroad? To learn about another culture and to improve my English.