Host families, friends, faculty and classmates were misty-eyed at a farewell reception for Tongji students last week.
The Coginchaug community gathered to say goodbye to their new friends from Ningbo, China.
“It was a great two weeks. I think it changed the lives of many of these kids, changed their perspectives,” said Board of Education Chair Robert Moore. “I think the school recognizes that this world is very small and these kids are kids just like us.”
Twenty-two students and two educators traveled from China to the U.S. to participate in a school partnership program between Tongji and Coginchaug high schools. The foreigners stayed with host families in Durham and Middlefield and shadowed Coginchaug students in order to experience American culture.
One Tongji student, Wang Jing, spoke before her peers about her experience at Coginchaug. “We’re glad and thankful that we are blessed with parents and families and shadow students that trust us and love us,” said Jing. “It’s you who gave us a home in U.S.A. Thanks for your hope, care and love.”
For some Coginchaug students, the farewell was closer to a: See you later. In the spring of 2020, Coginchaug students and faculty will travel to China for two weeks to see what life is like for the Tongji students.
Regional School District 13 School Superintendent Kathryn Veronesi, Moore, Board of Education Secretary Norm Hicks, Coginchaug Principal Brain Falcone, and World Language Teacher Kate Germond visited Ningbo last December with a consultant from ACES International to facilitate this partnership.
Upon the group’s return, Veronesi wrote in Town Times: “While there, we learned about Chinese history, culture and the educational system … At our partner school we met school leaders, teachers, food service staff and students. We toured school buildings and grounds, observed classes, discussed lessons, and finalized and signed a ‘Friendship and Partnership’ memorandum of agreement.”
Last week, Falcone said, “When we went to China last year, I couldn’t have hoped for such an amazing experience. To know that we have friends on the other side of the world that we communicated, talked to and had in our homes is absolutely unbelievable.”
Vice Principal of Tongji High School, Zhu Wei, said the partnership was “a very good beginning” to the “future connection” of the two schools.
“We hope the connection and all this friendship will last a long long time,” he said.