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Students from Colombia attend Smithville school for a month

Written on November 18th, 2009

[caption id=”attachment_2308” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”]ColumbiagroupFS Smithville Christian and Colegia San Bartolome la Merced students watch a volleyball game.[/caption]

Initiative aligns with school’s new international student policy

Smithville District Christian High School (SDCH) welcomed 20 students from Colegia San Bartolome la Merced for the month of October, an initiative that fits well with the school’s new international student policy, says director of communications and admissions Marlene Bergsma.

“We want to be very intentional about being a vibrant, dynamic, outward-focused school, and this really gave us a chance to practise hospitality and meet new people,” says Bergsma, noting the activity also helped raise awareness of SDCH as a good place to send students.

The Colombia students attended regular SDCH classes as well as participated in English language sessions and cultural trips, the overarching goal being to improve their English language skills.

Bergsma says what was most exciting was hearing from the students how welcome they felt and how much they enjoyed their experience at the school.

“The atmosphere at our school is something that our guests found remarkable,” she says.

“I think what it does for us is it makes us realize we have something valuable here.”

The initiative was co-ordinated through a Niagara-based agency, Red Leaf, with a view to helping the Colombia school achieve its goal of becoming bilingual by immersing the majority of its students in an English-speaking culture.

Joanna Kocsis, a co-ordinator with Red Leaf, confirms the students had a positive experience.

“The very warm attitude and welcoming nature of the school made the students feel super comfortable,” Kocsis commented in a SDCH newsletter article. “The open arms of the school made everyone welcome.”

SDCH plans to participate in similar programming in the future with the Colombia school.

“They’re very open to it and we’re very open to it,” says Bergsma.

Robyn DeKlerk, Daniel Motta Calderon and Abby Buma skate at the West Lincoln Arena.

The students’ stay was capped off with a Canadian cultural experience, ice-skating at a local arena with the SDCH students.

“For many of the Colombia kids, this was their first time ever (on the ice),” says Bergsma. “We thought it was so cool. ‘We’re Canadian, we ice skate, we play hockey, you should try this.’”

Each of the Colombia students stayed with a different host family, not all of whom have children attending SDCH, which was also beneficial for boosting the school’s profile, says Bergsma.

San Bartolome is a school of about 1,700. Founded by the Society of Jesus, the school’s slogan is “to be more, to serve better.”

This year SDCH also welcomes students from nine other countries, including Germany, Swaziland, Thailand, China and Japan.