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OHS kids could be headed south of the border

March 13, 2013 - What it's like to live in Mexico? Some Oxford High School students may have the opportunity to find out during Maymester through an exchange program with sister school Bachillerato 5 de Mayo High School in Puebla Mexico.

Maymester is the last "semester" for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. It's actually the last four weeks of school after the seniors have graduated.

According to OHS Assistant Principal Kurt Nuss, a minimum of two teachers would travel down to Mexico with about 15 students for two weeks between May 18 - May 31. While in Mexico the students would be hosted by families of students from 5 de Mayo High School.

"The idea of the home stay is a greatly reduced cost," he said. "Ultimately, the cost per student would be the passport fee if they don't have it, plane ticket, which is $577 round trip (when he checked two weeks ago) and then any other spending money they would want."

"We want our students to get as much of the authentic Mexican/Hispanic experience as possible," he added. "So some of them would be riding on the bus."

When the students return on May 31, they will be joined by students from Puebla who will be hosted by Oxford families for two weeks. The two host families would have an opportunity to get to know one another through Skype before the exchange happens.

The trip is being offered to IB (International Baccalaureate) students first.

"The reason it was presented to IB diploma kids first is because the school we're partnering with is an IB Diploma school. Those students will share many similar experiences as our diploma kids," Nuss added. "They have been Skyping and (becoming) Facebook friends and (communicating) on a regular basis right now both inside and outside of school. (They've) developed some of those friendships and are helping each other out."

The trip has also been presented to Spanish 3 and Spanish 4 level students as well.

"The students have to be proficient in Spanish," he said. "They don't have to be experts, but they have to have a basic understanding to communicate because part of the deal is that they practice their language acquisition and get immersed in the culture to be able to practice and get better at it."

Just how safe is Puebla? According to Nuss, Puebla, which is located two hours southwest of Mexico City has a crime rate of less than a third of an American City.

"For example San Antonio is the 'safest' American city (statistically-speaking). Puebla is less than half of that crime rate-wise," he said. "Puebla itself is ranked one of the eight safest cities in Mexico, according to Lonely Planet Travel (web)site for 2012 reports."

"It is known as a cultural, culinary and religious center of Mexico. It's where the original American colonization homes started. It's where most of the monasteries, the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Augustinians started and spread out," he said. "Lots of churches, architecture is at about every corner."

To emphasize the safety, Nuss said in the last trip back in October 2012, he, along with Matt Gibson, and Lakeville Elementary Principal Kristy Gibson-Marshall, went jogging at around 5:30 a.m. They were also wandering the streets taking photos at midnight and later.

Nuss said there will be plenty for the students to do in Mexico outside of just school. "They will have other activities planned throughout the day and evening activities, so they could be together as a group and also with Mexican students and continuing to build that friendship."

Jim Schwarz, assistant superintendet of curriculum & instruction agreed.

"I think it's a great opportunity for kids to expand upon their learning of language and culture of another country," he said. "It's a nice companion to our chinese program of offering similar experiences of getting to know that language and culture through a true international experience."

Not only is it an opportunity for the kids, said Schwarz, but for the families and community as well.

"We are certianly oppotomistic it's going to be a very successful thing," Schwarz said. "Hopefully we'll be able to expand it as we go."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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