GHS/Flint Southwestern Academy Visit

On Thursday, Feb. 23, on an unseasonably warm day, the IB (International Baccalaureate) students from Goshen High School stood outside, anxiously awaiting their friends and fellow IB students from the Flint Southwestern Academy in Flint, MI. The two groups first met last year when the GHS students traveled to Flint for a visit.

Part of a full IB education is Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS), which are essential elements that every student must complete as part of the Diploma Programme (DP). As part of their commitment to service, the GHS IB students took a look at the water crisis in Flint, and wondered how they could help. They contacted the IB students at Flint Southwestern Academy, and learned that through many generous donations, they did not really need more water; what they needed was a way to recycle all of the empty bottles. The GHS students took that information and ran with it. They secured barrels to use for recycling from the Goshen Waste Water Treatment Plant, they worked with the GHS construction class to get the tops cut off of the barrels, they contacted the local Coca-Cola distributor to get lids for the barrels, and they spent hours and hours painting and personalizing the barrels for Flint Southwestern Academy. In a collective effort on the project, they also received help from the City of Goshen, other local businesses, and parents.

When the GHS students visited Flint last year, they received school shirts from their hosts. Many of the GHS students were wearing the Flint shirts when the bus pulled up in front of GHS on Feb. 23. According to a Flint student who was not involved in last year’s visit, “I was so excited when we pulled up, and I saw them wearing our shirts! It meant so much to me.” The GHS students held welcoming signs for their friends to the north, and there were cheers and hugs as the teachers and students joined the GHS contingency. Everyone made their way to the media center, where they were welcomed by IB coordinator Theresa Collins and one of the GHS students. And then, the students were further welcomed with a popular northern Indiana treat, Rise and Roll donuts, courtesy of IB teacher Carl Weaver.

After a quick snack, the students went out to the football field to do introductions (name and a pet peeve, some of which were pretty funny!) and play a few games. While games were going on, a few people were interviewed by WNDU reporter Kasey Chronis. Below are a few of the comments from the interviews:

Emma, GHS student- Emma stated that she was a part of the visit to Flint last year. She stated that what inspired her last year was reading about the water crisis, and figuring out how Goshen could help. “We were really proud of our project, and how we decorated the recycling bins specifically for their school and their mascot.” When asked if the students from both schools still discuss the water crisis, she responded “Well, they just want to be normal high school students, like everyone else. If the subject comes up, then we’ll talk about it. If not, we’ll just enjoy the day together.”

Nolan, Flint Southwestern Academy student- Nolan wasn’t in IB last year, so this was his first chance to meet the GHS students. He stated that he was excited to see GHS students wearing his school shirt, he was thankful for the new experiences of the day, and he hoped to use social media to keep in contact with GHS students. When asked if his family had been impacted by the water crisis, he said that they had been “a bit”. He added that “It meant a lot that the Goshen kids brought us the recycling containers, we still use them. It was neat that they personalized the bins for us; we use the one with music notes on it by the music rooms. And, I’m just happy to be here today!”

Bryce, Flint Southwestern Academy student- Bryce stated that he was an IB student last year too, so he was a part of the initial visit. He said it was a new experience. “We never had kids visit us from another state; come all that way just to see our school and visit us. The visit meant something to not only our school, but to the city as well. It was just something uplifting and it felt good to everyone. We still use those bins every day.”

Sherry, Flint Southwestern Academy IB coordinator- Sherry explained that the connection between the schools grew after GHS reached out to Flint about the water crisis. “They brought us the recycling bins, and it was so special because they looked into our school, and decorated them just for us.” She stated that it is good for the Flint students to meet with students from another IB school, “to see that they are taking the same classes, and facing the same assessments and challenges of an IB education.” She added that she would like to keep the partnership between the schools going year after year, because it is a valuable connection for both schools.

Following the games and interviews outside, the groups went back to the media center, where they welcomed student leaders from West Goshen Elementary, who are now in the candidacy phase of Primary Years IB. The West Goshen students brought a mixer/game with them for all of the students, centered on the attributes of the IB Learner Profile, which states “As IB learners we strive to be: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced, and Reflective.” The students split into three groups (which deliberately included students from all three schools), and then drew pieces of paper out of a bag. In each bag were the learner profile attributes, the definition of each attribute, and an example of each attribute. The students were instructed to talk to each other in their groups, and bring together the attribute, its definition, and an example of the attribute.

Following the West Goshen game, the students spread out to table groups (again with students from each school), and held a book sharing, led by the students from Flint Southwestern Academy. Flint students read passages from many different books, and then the students discussed learner profile traits that were exhibited in the book passages.

GHS students led the same table groups in a learner profile banner activity, in which each table chose an attribute and wrote something about the attribute and decorated their piece of paper. The GHS students gathered the papers at the end of the activity, and will eventually scan them all to make IB banners for each of the schools.

While the students were working together, WNDU conducted a few more interviews:

Barry Younghans, GHS principal- He stated that the partnership between the two schools means a lot. “The kids might be from different cultures and upbringings, but they are all just high school students, speaking a common language through an IB education. We would love for this to continue; it is great for kids.”

Theresa Collins, GHS IB coordinator- Theresa shared about how the IB TOK (Theory of Knowledge) class reached out to Flint as part of their educational service component, and the “kids just took it from there. It has been a really, really neat experience. When I retire, this CAS project with Flint, and all of the good that came out of it will be somewhere on my list of most significant memories from my teaching career.” She added that she keeps in touch with the teachers and IB coordinator from Flint, and hopes to continue the visits in the years to come.

Mitchell, GHS student- He traveled to Flint with the GHS group last year, and said that it was a great experience to deliver the recycling bins and connect with the students. He said that some of the students from both schools have kept in touch through social media.

At the end of the table work, the West Goshen students shared “spirit sticks” with their tablemates. Spirit sticks are what West Goshen students earn when a staff member recognizes that they are displaying one of the learner profile attributes; the sticks can be worn on lanyards or put on backpacks. There were a lot of risk-taker spirit sticks given out, as some of the students acknowledged that interacting with so many new people can be scary sometimes!

Before the West Goshen students left to return to their school, the students from all three schools went out to the courtyard and took a group picture. One photo had students simply standing still, and one showed them holding up their spirit sticks. In the first picture, you will notice a student in the back row with her face lifted up and her arms thrown up in apparent joy. Her posture alone could probably encapsulate the feelings of the day from most of the participants; it was simply positive, positive, positive!

After the pictures, the students had lunch together in the library, and heard a few words of welcome from Goshen’s Mayor, Jeremy Stutsman. He thanked the Flint Southwestern students for coming to Goshen, and let them know that the citizens of Goshen still think of them often and wish them well as their city recovers from their crisis. He stated that their situation has prompted many mayors across the country to work proactively to check water supplies and keep them safe for their citizens. He welcomed the students and educators to return to Goshen any time.

After lunch, GHS students led small groups of Flint students on tours throughout the school. The students checked out classrooms, the cafeteria, the auditorium, the construction technology shop, the weight room, and they also dropped in to see choir and jazz band students in action.

When the tours were done, it was time for GHS coordinators and students to thank their visitors for coming to GHS, to say goodbye, and to pass out Goshen RedHawks shirts to their friends from Flint.

It takes dedication and commitment to earn an IB diploma, but it can be made easier by sharing the experience with someone who understands what it takes. THANK YOU to our friends from Flint Southwestern Academy who came to GHS to play games, to eat together, to talk about common struggles and insights that come with an IB education, to set an example for younger IB students, and to increase everyone’s faith in humanity. Until next time.