Domestic Exchange Program
Network of Complementary Schools
from The Calhoun Chronicle, Winter 2014)
When Lavern McDonald, US Associate Director, called a meeting at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year to gauge interest in the Network of Complementary Schools' domestic student exchange program, nearly 20 Upper Schoolers enthusiastically responded. Ultimately, Calhoun was able to send four students to various schools across the country: Sal Goldblatt '16 visited the Putney School in Vermont (a progressive independent school that also happens to be a Calhoun partner in the PEL program); Kyler Murria-Castro '16 spent time in suburban Rochester, NY, at Pittsford Sutherland High School; Leah Rice '15 attended the Pinewood Preparatory School, a private school outside of Charleston, SC; and Leah Saberski '16 experienced farm life in Kansas while going to class at Quinter Public School. Meanwhile, Calhoun sophomore Maryam Chishti and her family hosted a student from Northampton, MA, who attended Calhoun for a week.
“The program allows students to take advantage of learning opportunities in schools and communities that are far different from Calhoun," says Lavern.
For Kyler, participating was all about stepping outside of her comfort zone. She wanted to attend a school that was nothing like Calhoun, and in Pittsford Sutherland she got exactly that. Kyler took the big yellow bus to school and followed a traditional schedule, with a period system and classes that occurred daily. The rising junior was also able to experience some of the local culture, and traveled with her host family to Niagara Falls, which was in a partially frozen state, as well as to Buffalo for a taste of its famous chicken wings. Says Kyler, “One thing I took home was the value in taking advantage of what's made available to me. The girl I stayed with was very involved in anything she could get her hands on, both at and out of school; I was very impressed, because it's harder for her to do all those things when you consider that Rochester is a smaller community. The possibilities for me here are endless, and she really opened my eyes to this."
While Kyler's experience no doubt differed from her life at Calhoun, Leah Saberski's exchange trip to an agricultural community in Kansas provided a week that simply cannot be replicated in New York City. And that's exactly what she had hoped for when she selected her destination. Leah helped feed lambs at a sheep farm, visited a dairy and a grain elevator, and attended a cattle sell—complete with an auctioneer and more than 700 cows up for purchase. “I got to hear, see, and—especially—smell so many new things," says Leah. “I think that adapting to my new surroundings came easily because I made sure not to expect anything. I wanted to keep an open mind and really embrace the experience with no prior assumptions."
Maryam said she hosted one of the exchange students because of a life-changing experience she had last summer, living with a family in Uruguay. Although that summer visit wasn't under the network umbrella, she felt it necessary to pay it forward: “I think that sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in New York City, and how amazing it can be to people who don't live the city life," notes Maryam. “I loved playing tour guide and having the opportunity to show Calhoun off."