lobal Partnership trips to South Africa, China and the Dominican Republic have been temporarily suspended as the administration evaluates the program. Each of these allow a group of students to work with children in each country at charitable foundations partnered with ASL. The students do various activities with groups of children from the foundation, varying from camping to bonding activities.
Based on her memorable experiences, Vice President of the South Africa Club Emily Gossett (’16) was upset when she first hard about the suspension of the Global Partnerships. “I gained a lot from this experience and the other people who went on this trip feel the same way,” she said.
Two years ago there was a faculty position, filled by World Languages and Cultures Teacher Nina DeSimone, within the High School that supported the organization of Global Partnerships. DeSimone was involved with the planning of the three Global Partnerships trips last year and now this position no longer exists. DeSimone stepped down from the position because she wanted to focus on full time teaching. Because of this, former Assistant Principal Annie Leonard, as well as the trip leaders, ran the program last year without a specific teacher to support the program.
“At the end of the year, we did an analysis that concluded that the trips were not sustainable in the current model. The trip leaders and the assistant leader had to pick up too much of the work in addition to their regular work. It was simply too much,” Principal Jack Phillips said. “We have to make sure that students and teachers can have a meaningful experience, and in the current model of organization, we were not able to do that.”
The decision to suspend the trips, instead of improving the current model, was made because the program was a lower priority than other more pressing concerns.
PE Teacher Gwenndolyn Williams has a different view than Phillips. “When I speak for the South Africa trip, I think that this trip was not unorganized,” she said.
All of the planning of the South Africa trip was done by Williams, with some help from the other trip leaders.
“I feel that the organization from my side was spot on and tight,” Williams said. “I would not have taken the responsibility of being a trip leader if I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to organize a trip, that would maximize a student’s experience. ”
Williams believes that the community is losing opportunities to expand outside the community of London and to become more accepting of people from different cultures. “These global partnership trips enable all of the students, including myself, to embrace the differences and diversity all over the globe,” Williams said.
Despite the suspension of the trips this year, Williams hopes that by making this decision, the school will be able to acknowledge the comments made about these trips in order to improve them.
Another reason the trips have been suspended is because of the shortening of spring break to 10 days. Because of this change, students would have no time off from school after the trips and the trips may have required missing school.
“There has been an increased push on my part and on the high school administration to reduce the amount of absences in trips away from school,” Phillips said.
In addition to these problems, there was difficulty in the financials and cost of the trip. “The trips are very expensive to run and there was an expense to the school as well as great expense to the families of the students going on this trip,” Phillips said.
The school is trying to “lower the bar” in financial costs so all students can attend or participate on these trips. Phillips feels that these are experiences every student should be able to have.
All of these reasons led the administration to conclude that they needed to suspend the Global Partnership trips.
“Once I understood why the trips were cancelled, I was not angry; however, I was sad that other people wouldn’t be able to experience the things that I have on these trips,” Gossett said.
Gossett feels that the trips cannot be replaced or compensated for, but she thinks there are still ways to keep the spirit of the trip alive. Gossett explained that the South Africa Club will be hosting multiple fundraisers for the foundations.
“Even though we cannot be there, our goal is to keep the relationships alive with the foundations and continue to support each of the charities which we would have worked with,” Gossett said.
While Global Partnerships trips have been cancelled, community partnerships will continue to operate. Geographically, the two partnerships differ dramatically, however Phillips believes that they can both offer a similar exposure.
“There is no question in my mind that there are some unique aspects to traveling to a new country, but there are also lots of similarities with community partnerships. There are some things that are achieved through the global partnerships, but also locally in community partnerships,” Phillips said.
Students looking for a similar experience to global partnerships should talk to Director of Service Learning Brandon Block. Phillips thinks that these experiences are available if people are interested in paying for it. “Things like these trips exist, however they are not ASL-based,” Phillips said.
While the trips are suspended for this year, Phillips, Gossett and Williams are all hopeful that the Global Partnerships trips will be reinstated next year.