Portland students to video-conference with peers in Mexico

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PORTLAND — Starting in January, some students at Deering High School will begin a different kind of conversation.

As part of an advanced Spanish class and a co-curricular activity called the Ambassador’s Program, 30 students from all grades will participate in a semester-long video-conference program with students at the American School in Guadalajara, Mexico, through an organization called Global Nomads.

Carlos Gomez, Spanish teacher and the coordinator of the school’s International Studies Schools Network, said he first found out about Global Nomads at the Partnership for Global Learning Conference in New York City last June. He said Deering applied this fall and was accepted to participate because of the school’s focus on global work.

“There are going to be four video dialogues that are happening, essentially one a month, and in between students will be posting and communicating online,” Gomez said.

Each video conference has a different goal. The first is having the students establish a mutual understanding about each other’s communities and cultures. The second one looks at being critical consumers of media. The third one is about creating creative solutions to complex issues, and then finally the students in both Mexico and at Deering are going to create a take action piece to engage communities.

“(The goal) is to expand our students’ and our school’s competence in becoming global citizens,” Gomez said. “In the process we’re developing our communication skills, recognizing perspectives, our ability to research and investigate the world, and ultimately to act in it.”

Gomez said there is still work to be done in preparation for the program, including training student facilitators.

“We hope to have the facilitators trained by mid-January and then our first video session is right before the February break,” Gomez said.” So there will be one in February, March, April and May. So we’re getting there.”

Based in New York City, Global Nomads is an international nonprofit organization that was founded in 1998 with the goal of fostering dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth. The organization has conducted programming in over 50 countries and on all seven continents, reaching over 1 million young people. 

Nicole Goggin, program coordinator for Global Nomads, said Deering was chosen to participate based on “a committed teacher and exciting application.”

“All schools are required to go through an application process,” Goggin said. “There we look at their commitment and how they intend to integrate the program into the classroom, and then we select from the applicants. We obviously thought they were good fit.”

Global Nomads is funded by grants from various foundations to the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Goggin said participating schools don’t have to pay anything for the program, and instead can just be committed.

This is Deering’s first time working with Global Nomads. Neither Goggin nor Gomez knew of another Portland or Maine school that has participated before.

Gomez said logistically, it would have been hard to open up the Global Nomads program to all students, but that is why they are using the advanced Spanish class, since it is open to everyone (although he expects mostly sophomores and juniors to participate).

The Ambassador’s Program, on the other hand, is made up of students who are recommended for it by peers and teachers. Students in this program, Gomez said, are seen as “as positive potential leaders” and over their sophomore year they get additional support in terms of leadership and communication and “essentially they become our ambassadors for global focus and our school and for the work that we’re doing.”

The 30 students have not yet been selected, but Gomez said there was a lot of interest and they are working on finalizing the selections.

“It’s almost second nature to video-conference with people, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal,” he said. “But the opportunity to do it with somebody from a different country might be the hook.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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CIEE to fund summer study abroad

PORTLAND — Deering High School students will receive $20,000 to study abroad for a few weeks next summer.

The school was selected to participate in the 2014-2015 Global Navigator Scholarship by the Portland-based Council on International Educational Exchange. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors can apply to one of 30 CIEE Summer High School Abroad four-week programs, and awards will be considered based on both merit and need.

The locations are all over the world, including Morocco, China, Tanzania, Botswana and others, with subjects ranging from language and culture to children’s rights and education to global entrepreneurship.

Spanish teacher Carlos Gomez, coordinator for the school’s International Studies Schools Network, said five to 10 students will be considered. He said there will be student presentations and parent meetings in the coming weeks to get the word out, before a March deadline for applications.

“We’ve had some students participate in past summers, but this is the first time that they’re able to do it on a more highly funded level,” Gomez said.

— Colin Ellis

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.