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You are here: Home Section Table Good Work SHS Students Forge Cross Cultural Connections in New Zealand
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SHS Students Forge Cross Cultural Connections in New Zealand

NZ3The students of P4Y gather on the steps of New Zealand Parliament before closing ceremonies.This summer, five upperclassmen students traveled to New Zealand to represent Scarsdale at Partnership for Youth: Shaping Vision 2030, a conference about sustainability and revitalization. Students from Hawaii, Indonesia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and Scarsdale met to form cross-cultural connections while discussing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030.

Partnership for Youth (P4Y), hosted by the East West Center, is an annual conference. According to the East West Center, “P4Y creates opportunities for young people to come together to develop friendships and connections, and build knowledge and skills; share creativity and innovation as they work across cultures, nationalities, and other differences to take action for social change.” In 2017 the forum was held in Japan, where three Scarsdale students attended to collaborate about wellness and peace.

The Scarsdale group this summer was made up of rising seniors Amanda Glik and Emmeline Berridge and rising juniors Rishabh Gharekhan, Ty Kawamura, and Anna Donovan. History teachers Patrick Healy and Nicola Minchillo led the students in the program. Prior to collaborating with their peers in New Zealand, the group formulated a preliminary sustainability project focused on the Scarsdale community. School wide surveys were sent out to the student body and teachers to collect data regarding the improper consumption and disposals of plastic in the high school.

NZ1(left to right) Amanda Glik, Emmeline Berridge, Anna Donovan, Ty Kawamura, and Rishabh Gharekhan represented Scarsdale High School at Partnership for Youth, a sustainability conference in New Zealand.

The program was made up of two phases. During phase one, the “In Country Cultural Immersion”, participants traveled to New Zealand, where they explored New Zealand, participated in peer-to-peer and expert dialogues on sustainable development challenges, and were immersed into the community of the Maori Tribe. The Maori are the native people of New Zealand. The Maori tribe is an incredible success story as over the past 50 years the Maori culture and language have been revitalized after near extinction when the British settled in the early 1800s. Maori is now an official language of New Zealand, and the tribe is well respected, with seats in New Zealand parliament. While the program was centered around the theme of sustainability, it challenged the notion that sustainability is exclusive to the environment. Rather here, sustainability meant the ability to sustain a community or culture, which could entail family, social, economic, or environmental systems.

During their two week immersion in New Zealand, the students engaged in discussions with peers, went on excursions throughout Wellington, and were taught about facets of the Maori culture through storytellers, Maori politicians, and prominent leaders in the community. During the first week participants were split into mixed country groups for sustainability excursions around Wellington. Rishabh participated in the “World of Waste” tour, a trip to the landfill and The Remakery, a local business that repurposes trash headed to the landfill. Ty ventured into downtown Wellington with his group to help the homeless in the city. Anna tracked the water quality from the top to the bottom of the Waiwhetu stream, a stream that passes through Lower Hutt. Amanda worked with Harakeke, a fiber plant grown in New Zealand, learning how to weave with it and utilize its fiber properties to create sustainable materials. I went to the Petone Settlers museum to understand how devastating the British settlement was on the Maori community.

Students then shared their experiences with the rest of the group. An important part of the P4Y experience was the ability to engage intimately with the Maori culture. Not only were the students from New Zealand predominantly Maori, but the program was facilitated by Maori leaders of Lower Hutt. The students were welcomed into the Maori family, participating in their prayers, meals, games, and staying in their meeting house, a Marae, for a weekend homestay.

What was most captivating about the P4Y experience was the ability to create connections with peers from diverse cultural backgrounds. Not only did the students’ differing perspectives enrich dialogue about sustainability, but it also helped foster the individual growth of the participants. During meals, the Scarsdale students were known for branching out and engaging with students from other countries, regardless of language barriers. At free time in the evening, students gathered in common rooms to play cards, share dances, and watch movies. During one memorable evening the Hawaii group attempted to teach everyone the Hula while Japanese students taught a lesson on origami. With every joke, story, and experience shared, students were both learning from each other’s differences and appreciating their similarities. It was this informal time where P4Y students were able to bond, ultimately seeing one another as a network of future leaders with who to keep in touch in the future.

The final project was an individual community action plan, where Scarsdale students came together to outline an implementation plan for the high school community next year. The plan focused on the overconsumption and improper disposal of plastic at SHS.

The importance of community in the Maori culture was particularly interesting to Scarsdale students. It was evident that the Maori’s nightly songs, stories, and language revitalization contributed to an intense pride in their community, leading to a mindset of cooperation with regard to recycling and the reduction of waste. Scarsdale’s critical question was “how do we change apathy to action?” as many students are unwilling to reduce their plastic waste because of a sense of apathy toward the environmental cause. The students narrowed in on three sources of critical plastic waste at SHS: water bottles, school supplies, and food plastics. They will be working with a program called Terracycle, a school supply recycling service, which will be implemented as a way to reduce school supply waste.

Additionally, Scarsdale’s P4Y group will prepare a video presentation for Global Citizenship Day focused on plastic consumption at the high school. The students are working with a participating school in Hawaii to document the plastic on Hawaii’s beaches in an attempt to harness an empathetic response for the way that plastic is affecting high school students in other communities. The ultimate goal of these campaigns is to increase students’ awareness of how the plastic they consume and dispose affects the global community.

NZ6Scarsdale students engage in cross-cultural discussions about sustainability issues throughout the world.

Students and teachers ended their P4Y trip with a closing ceremony at New Zealand Parliament. Awards were presented, countries shared cultural presentations, and participants were given the opportunity to say farewell to one another. Two members of New Zealand Parliament spoke to the students, referring to them as the “next generation of change-makers.” To close the night, the Maori students initiated a final evening prayer, which was a culmination of the progress made throughout the week. During the first night of the program only the Maori were able to sing the words for the nightly blessing. However, as the guitar sounded to initiate the final prayer, every single participant stood in unison and belted out the jubilant tune of the hymn with a tangible sentiment of trust. It was inspiring to see such diverse minds come together so organically, no longer separated by ethnic boundaries, but united as citizens of the world.

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