Valdosta City Schools
A group of 22 Valdosta Middle School students and 4 VMS teachers recently returned from a ten-day Academic Service Learning International Exchange to several locations in the United Kingdom including London. The trip was the culminating component of an 18-month commitment to the service learning project which they began in January 2012. Their British counterparts visited Valdosta for 10 days in January 2013.
The first International British Exchange happened in 1998 with Valdosta City School system and the Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, England. Since that time, the two systems have successfully continued their partnership and hope to do so in the future.
During the British visit to Valdosta, students researched and studied the role of Georgia in the Civil War visiting historic sites in Savannah, Fort Pulaski, and the Andersonville National Historical POW site. While in the UK, students researched various aspects of the Olympics focusing on the recent games held in London in 2012, and they studied local history of the Brightlingsea, UK community.
Project Director since 2005, Dr. Deborah Paine, stated that this program has countless benefits for students when they become involved. Not only do they have the opportunity to gain additional academic knowledge, but also the ability to experience a completely different culture can be a life-changing experience. Many students and families continue communicating and developing their friendships for many years after they finish the exchange, some even visiting each other again. Throughout her time coordinating the program, Dr. Paine has been privileged to work with many outstanding students and parents. She credited the commitment of all stakeholders for the ongoing success of such a complex learning experience. The support of the Valdosta City School system and the entire Valdosta community has always been tremendous. Dr. Paine stated that a program of this magnitude would not be possible without support from not only the school system but also the entire city.
This year’s participants included the following VMS students: Isabel Campa, Emily Posas, Jackie Escalera, Christina Lane, Katie Thomerson, Ally Orenstein, Maggie Davis, Abbie Sherwood, Kylee Snyder, Anne Rowe, Reese Khan, Taylor Tolliver, Davis Mathis, Dane Tillman, Rhett McLeod, Wesley Veal, Justice Orr, Edward Gilbert, Chance Myers, Bobby Goddard, Jake Flemming, Keaton Rice: VMS teachers included Dr. Debbie Paine, Chris Chastain, Erin Roberts, and Beth Baker.