Sharing a Global Mindset: New York Students Visit Their Counterparts in Shanghai

The idea was born last spring with the announcement that Dwight was planning to open Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School, the first independent Chinese-American collaborative high school in China. Three Dwight students ― Helena Bartel, Tessa Paulis, and Colette Vletter, all in the class of 2015 ― were inspired to contribute to the new community for their IB Diploma Program CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) project.

The idea was born last spring with the announcement that Dwight was planning to open Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School, the first independent Chinese-American collaborative high school in China. Three Dwight students ― Helena Bartel, Tessa Paulis, and Colette Vletter, all in the class of 2015 ― were inspired to contribute to the new community for their IB Diploma Program CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) project.

With two of Dwight's pillars firmly in mind ― community and global vision ― the triumvirate consulted with Mr. Neil Brier, Grades 6-12 Activities and Community Service Coordinator, to map a plan for the coming school year. At that time, Tessa reported that China was familiar territory in which to meet new challenges. She said, "The reason Helena and I are interested in making this our CAS project is because we have both lived in China, and therefore have connections and memories there and would love to be able to go back! The reason Colette is interested is because she has herself been on an exchange program before, and therefore can provide us details with how it works, and is as well interested to become familiar with the culture."

Tessa, Helena, and Collette had a vision of how they could contribute to the Shanghai school — by sharing the value and benefits of community service through the eyes of IB students. They could provide students new to the IB with insights gained from first-hand experience in creating their own meaningful community and service projects, along with practical instruction in how to use ManageBac, the online system where Dwight students document CAS work, report outcomes, and reflect on their progress.

With all in agreement, the planning began in earnest, with the help of Fiona Imboden, Director of Extra-curricular Programs in New York, and Ann Liu, Director of Operations in Shanghai. At one point when faced with a language barrier, Helena shared how they overcame the obstacle: "It took a while to figure out what classes we will be visiting because only some classes were in English. However, the language issue was solved and we decided to take physics, math, biology, chemistry, and art." Solution found.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving break: Itineraries in hand, the trio flew to Shanghai with Ms. Rebecca Singer, English as an Alternate Language (EAL) Coordinator, to bring their project to fruition. The journey included meeting their peers, attending classes on the new campus and, of course, giving their presentation at a school-wide assembly, for which they received numerous high marks. They stayed with student host families, toured the city, and shared an invaluable cross-campus collaborative experience that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Reflecting on the trip, Colette reports that it "was truly an amazing and a life-changing experience. I met so many inspirational people and the staff at Dwight Qibao were all very welcoming and supportive of our visit to the school. Brantley Turner, the head of the school, was especially very kind to us, and even invited us back for a gap year next year to start up the CAS program at Dwight Qibao."

Tessa reports that in addition to their school-wide presentation on their last day, "We gave many small presentations to different classes about time management, college, resources, and the IB." She continues, "We also had the opportunity to do some volunteer work, which we included in our CAS presentation and hoped to be able to create a connection with the school and those foundations." Tessa is referring to Pass Love Charity Foundation, where they volunteered reading books in English to young children at their local library in Shanghai; and with BaoBei Babies at Shanghai Children's Hospital, where they held babies to give caretakers who work extremely long hours a much-needed break.

Ms. Singer, who has lived in China, shares, "This was an invaluable experience for everyone. One of the things I love about Dwight is our international community and the opportunities we are given to learn about and experience other cultures. It is wonderful to see students grow and enrich their lives through hands-on learning. This type of learning helps to open minds and broaden world views. I can't wait to participate in more of these exchanges in the future."

"Cross-campus collaboration, both in and out of the classroom, is the core of what makes Dwight's global approach unique. The administration, faculty and students from New York are invested in what we are building in Shanghai, and likewise our community in Shanghai is focused on taking part in as many Dwight global opportunities as possible," reports Brantley Turner, Vice Principal of Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School. "We opened the school just last September 1, and we have already had New York students visit us, and we are getting ready to participate in the upcoming Carnegie Hall concert, travel to Seoul for Model UN, and plan summer experiences together. We aim through our daily dialogues and active programs to continually strengthen a global mindset for all Dwight students."

A global mindset. That's one of the many invaluable characteristics 2,000 Dwight students share across three continents.

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