Senator Bernie Sanders recently announced allocating $134,000 for Harwood Union High School’s travel study program. The funding will allow the school to expand its existing partnerships with other schools around the world and develop new partnerships to enrich students’ learning experiences through exchange programs throughout the U.S. and abroad. The funding will provide the opportunity to work with ethnographers and filmmakers to develop collaborative storytelling projects.
As a young person, I was fortunate enough to participate in multiple exchange and travel programs that allowed me to spend time living with host families in Switzerland, Ghana, Tunisia and the Czech Republic. These were some of my most formative learning experiences that I still carry with me today.
Storytelling is an essential skill, no matter what field you choose to go into; it’s a way we connect to other people and a way of understanding our own experiences. As a high school and college student traveling the world, I learned to reflect on my own background and story as well as to find similarities with other’s stories. The ethnographic skills Harwood students (and their partners) will learn will enrich their lives, teach them how to tell their own stories and others, and broaden their understanding of the world. These are skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives and stories they will tell for years to come. Over the last few years of the pandemic, students missed out on the learning experiences provided by getting out in the world, meeting new people, and experiencing different ways of living. These programs will help them do just that, going beyond the classroom and encountering different perspectives.
I can only imagine the rich experiences and memories Harwood students and their partners will benefit from thanks to Harwood’s program and the new funding. Traveling and hosting visitors from other places helps students learn first-hand about different ways of viewing the world, as well as learn to embrace their own cultures and backgrounds. Harwood’s travel program is an innovative, hands-on way for students to learn from each other. Hats off to teacher/coordinator Steve Rand and all those at Harwood, as well as Senator Sanders, for making these experiences possible for our young people.