By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — Since its inception seven years ago, Pope John XXIII Regional High School’s Cultural Exchange Program has invited international students from China, Europe, South America and Africa to come to the school and share the Pope John experience.
Now, it has taken a huge step forward.
Pope John, with the help of its partner Three W International, has recently made an agreement with six schools in a school district from Shijiazhuang, China in which students from those schools have the option of attending Pope John during their academic careers.
Within this agreement, the Chinese students not only have the option of coming to Pope John, but they also can potentially take courses in English, Mathematics and Science at their schools in China that will earn them credits at Pope John. In addition, Pope John students and faculty will have the opportunity to travel to these schools and spend some time there as well.
“It’s a historic moment in our relationship with the Chinese/International education program,” Pope John Vice President for Institutional Advancement Craig Austin said. “We’ve signed an agreement to collaborate and share educational practices, curriculum, teaching methodology and student exchange. Not only have we opened our doors to their students, but they are opening their doors to our students as well.
“It’s a two-way street.”
The agreement was made in late March after Austin and Mary Alice Campbell, Pope John’s Cultural Exchange Program Director, traveled on a 15-hour flight to China and visited schools in eight cities over the course of 11 days. Austin and Campbell not only gave presentations about Pope John to the schools, including the district that is led by Shijiazhuang No. 2 Middle School, but they also met face-to-face with students and parents of those schools.
Austin and Campbell, who have traveled to China for three straight years, believed the interviews they had with the students and families played a big factor into these schools wanting to partner with Pope John.
“(Meeting with us) gave them an advantage because they were seeing and talking to people who will be at our school,” Campbell said. “A parent is a parent and a student is a student, no matter where they are from. They have additional concerns that parents and students here in the U.S. don’t have. They have to worry about whom they are dealing with, the living conditions for their child, and the social and cultural aspects of being in the U.S. We wanted to provide them with the reassurance they are looking for and the quality of education their child will be getting.”
More importantly, Austin and Campbell learned that the Chinese people not only value the Pope John education, but also loved the historical aspect and the forward-thinking approach the school offers.
“What was very telling was that at the end of one of the days after we met with the children, one set of parents came up to us and said, ‘Hey, I know two students from here who go to your school and they recommended us to you,’” Austin said. “Our reputation precedes itself and they know we take care of our kids during school and after graduation.”
“The Chinese parents love the fact that our school is over 60 years old,” Campbell said. “They also love that we are always evolving and looking to better our students.”
Austin said that plans to have Pope John faculty members travel to the Shijiazhuang No. 2 Middle School to share curriculum, educational practices and teaching methods are in the works. He also said the opportunity for students to go there and learn will happen in the future, but no plans have been made as of yet.
Austin summarized this monumental agreement by sharing Shijiazhuang No. 2 Middle School’s motto.
“For the children, for all of the children,” Austin said. “We want the international students and our students here to enjoy the Pope John experience. Now, we have a partner on the ground in China that can help us achieve that goal.”