DELAVAN — Delavan-Darien High School is one of just 80 schools in the nation recognized by the American Field Service-USA and the National Society of High School Scholars as a 2016 “Top Global Learning School” award-winner.
The award recognizes exceptional dedication to fostering global citizenship through intercultural learning—both inside and outside of the classroom. From hosting international students, to encouraging American students to study abroad, to incorporating intercultural learning initiatives into their curriculum, award-winning institutions have demonstrated a strong commitment to developing the global competency of their students.
“The Delavan-Darien School District has a long and proud tradition of providing real world education through not only our strong and long-standing AFS program, but also a richly diverse student and staff population at all schooling levels,” said Mike Heine, coordinator of school/community relations. “The opportunities to learn with, from and about peoples of different cultures happens naturally every day in our district. Those are valuable opportunities often not available at many of the area’s more homogeneous school districts. It’s something that sets Delavan-Darien Schools apart and makes us unique. We are very fortunate to have this diverse learning environment in our rural community, and we are honored to be chosen for this award.”
The chosen high schools are committed to making a profound difference in the lives of their students, according to a news release announcing the winners. Intercultural learning is increasingly becoming essential for all young people, as globalization continues to influence a variety of industries, from business to science, to the nonprofit sector to the arts. When today’s students learn to speak another language, navigate a different cultural context and become more tolerant and globally informed citizens, they are developing the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.
The global learning in the Delavan-Darien School District doesn’t start in high school. With a diverse environment, students are exposed to people of many cultures and backgrounds from a young age. More than 50 percent of district students are minority races, and about 20 percent speak English as a second language. Also, more than 40 Delavan-Darien staffers speak Spanish and many are foreign-born. Besides the United States, Delavan-Darien has staff members who are natives of Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Spain, Guatemala and Columbia.
“I am extremely delighted that our district, and especially our high school staff, are receiving this recognition,” said Superintendent Robert Crist, Ed.D. “A lot of staff are involved in providing such unique global educational opportunities for our students.”
As an award-receiving school, Delavan-Darien High School students will have the opportunity to apply for a $1,000 scholarship to study abroad through AFS, which pairs American students with host families in foreign lands and international students with US-based host families.
“Delavan-Darien is well deserving of this kind of recognition as an institution of secondary education involved in global learning,” said Robert Dahl, a longtime liaison and host parent for Delavan-Darien’s AFS program.
Last year, DDHS was recognized as a top-performing member school of the World Flags chapter of AFS for its continued support of the international student exchange program. The chapter includes 70 high schools from 22 Wisconsin counties.
“Delavan-Darien continues, year-after-year without hardly a break, to have deep involvement in global learning through the AFS program and other foreign exchange programs that are available,” Dahl said.
Since 1954, in every year but two in the late 1950s, DDHS was involved in having either local students going abroad or students being hosted in the Delavan-Darien community, or both.
The district has hosted 180 students from 57 countries and 67 DDHS students have studied abroad in those 60-plus years. Currently there are three foreign-exchange students at DDHS — Zeana Saber of Qatar; David Wellauer of Switzerland and Anna Mamontova of the Ukraine. A fourth student, Charlie Parton of Australia was here part of last school year and the beginning of this school year.
“I’ve been an advocate for every high school in the state, and even the nation, to host at least one student from a foreign country,” Dahl said. “In doing so, you have a ready-made resource for global learning within the school. Exchange students bring new perspectives to our local world, and they learning about our culture from their own, much different perspective. Likewise, when we send students abroad, they are taking an American perspective from our community to another nation and coming back and reporting on what they’ve learned while abroad.
“Those are some of the very healthy and very essential benefits of exchange program. Host families and host students also often form bonds that make them both seem like they’re a part of an extended family. Those relationships often last a lifetime.”
AFS-USA, a non-profit organization, has been a leader in international student exchange for more than 65 years. Its mission is to enhance the global competency of U.S. citizens through providing intercultural learning experiences for individuals, families, communities and schools through a volunteer partnership. Each year, AFS-USA awards more than $3 million in scholarships and financial aid to U.S. students, and it maintains a network of more than 4,000 U.S. volunteers who support educators, students and their families nationwide.
About the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS)
Formed in 2002 by James W. Lewis and Claes Nobel, senior member of the family that established the Nobel Prizes, NSHSS recognizes academic excellence at the high school level and helps to advance the goals and aspirations of high- achieving millennials through unique learning experiences, scholarships, internships, international study and peer networks. NSHSS connects outstanding young scholars with the resources they need to develop their strengths and pursue their passions from high school to college to career. Currently, there are more than 1,000,000 lifetime members in 160 countries.