Culture abounds at area private schools
by Danielle Jackson
It’s no secret that the Triad’s private schools offer students an unparalleled, well-rounded education. But how do they prepare the next generation for life outside the classroom?
Very well, it seems. The private schools we talked with offer a variety of engaging cultural opportunities for students, from learning a new language beginning in preschool to studying abroad.
Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Kernersville prioritizes cross-cultural understanding in everything from its design of foreign language curricula to its secondary school exchange programs. Specifically, the school places a high priority on service to foreign students from Europe, Asia and Africa as a way to broaden their multicultural experiences.
“American perspective in the 21st century — unless it’s broadened through the education process in ways that previously were untried in American schools — is going to be far more limited than the times demand,” says George L. Repass, principal.
“It’s essential that our culture’s tendency to be inward-looking rather than focused on connection and networking on a global scale be addressed,” he adds. “This is best done at the secondary-school level, where opportunities for broadening young people’s perspectives are limitless.”
At Caldwell Academy in Greensboro, all students are taught Latin from third through eighth grade as a foundation for the acquisition of other languages. Spanish is offered to students in its Rhetoric School and are encouraged to pursue other languages of interest as well.
“As a classical school, Caldwell’s students are expected to be cultured, which means that they are to be knowledgeable of their culture and able to act justly within it,” says Dona Hedgecock, curriculum coordinator and assistant principal.
“Since language is a transformational aspect of culture, a Caldwell education is centered around the proper use of language.”
The school also has hosted cultural events and international students from Vietnam, Ethiopia, and other countries. All Caldwell seniors travel to Italy as a culmination of their study of the humanities, and all students can participate in mission trips to places like Guatemala and the Philippines.
“Caldwell students have a heart for the world,” Hedgecock says. “They know it’s their responsibility to be stewards and caretakers of it.”
Calvary Baptist Day School
In addition to offering Latin, Calvary Baptist Day School’s curriculum features extensive Spanish instruction, allowing students to learn about the history and culture of Spanish-speaking countries. The capstone of students’ Spanish experience takes place with a senior mission trip to La Carpio in San Jose, Costa Rica.
“The trip serves as a tremendous learning experience for students as they’re immersed in another culture and are able to view life from a different perspective,” says Karen Walter, director of admissions for the Winston-Salem school.
“They are stretched as they seek to give where there is need and end up receiving gifts of even greater value in return.”
Other mission opportunities allow students to connect with children and adults in need from places like Myanmar.
“Students become attuned world citizens as they understand and come to appreciate people whose language, customs and beliefs differ from their own,” Walter says.
“Their life perspective is broadened, equipping them to become contributing members of the world community.”
At Canterbury School in Greensboro, students and their families are given an opportunity to enjoy a variety of cultural offerings throughout the year. This includes everything from a middle school Mexico exchange and a summer trip to Italy to multicultural festivals and culturally themed dinners.
Students also begin foreign language instruction in kindergarten, and each year they read from a broad selection of multicultural literature.
“In every subject, they explore content from a variety of perspectives,” says Penny Summers, assistant head of school.
“Our commitment to offering a superior academic education and to preparing students to participate in the global economy requires us to develop programs that reduce stereotypes, expand cultural awareness, and provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively and respectfully with others.”
The Elon School
Both the French and Spanish curricula at The Elon School extensively cover the cultures, countries, and regions in which each language is spoken. Students also have traveled to Spain and France through immersion programs to further enhance the experience.
The school also has a heavy focus on music, theater and visual arts, with students taking day trips to places like the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.
“We feel that cultural arts make students more well-rounded, and we provide a means to expose them to art, music, and culture,” says Jay Lasley, admissions director.
“Our hope is that students develop a deep appreciation for the cultural arts, and we’re proud that we’ve created a community where they support and appreciate their peers’ artistic talents.”
Greensboro Day School
While Greensboro Day School has an extensive Spanish curriculum, its Lower School has opportunities to explore many more cultures, from Japan and China to Kenya and England. Different grade levels have different projects to help students learn about and connect with other cultures.
Its Upper School already has an Australia exchange program, while its Middle School will host an exchange with students from Paris for the first time this year. Upper School students also participate in the Community Development and Leadership Summit, an international conference held each year in India.
“Studying cultural similarities and differences around the globe is a necessity if our students are to become prepared for life beyond school,” says Ed Dickinson, Middle School director.
“Our students’ studies, activities, community awareness, and involvement in service learning and outreach reflects a strong commitment at Greensboro Day School to growing sensitivity to, respect for, and interaction with many different cultural orientations.”
New Garden Friends School
At New Garden Friends School in Greensboro, Spanish is introduced in preschool, building on itself through eighth grade. At the high school level, Spanish is offered in addition to several other languages, including Mandarin, Latin, French, and German. The school also offers a trip to a Spanish-speaking country every other year for those in seventh through 10th grades, and is developing a service learning trip to the Dominican Republic as part of its honors curriculum.
Each year, New Garden Friends School also hosts Diversity Day, featuring age-appropriate workshops where students can learn more about different cultures.
“Most of our graduates will live and work in a culturally diverse world,” says David Tomlin, head of school.
“Any and all ways that a school can help a student understand and prepare for this new, smaller world will be beneficial.”
At Noble Academy — formerly Guilford Day School — in Greensboro, students are exposed a variety of cultures through Spanish instruction, trips to places like the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro and the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, hands-on activities like building the Berlin Wall, and visits from speakers from Ghana and other countries.
“As a school for children with learning differences, Noble Academy helps prepare students for the world that lies ahead by providing a nurturing and respectful environment where diversity is highly valued and respected,” says Clare Abel, academic dean.
“When students are taught in an environment such as ours — where each student’s learning style is unique and valued — they learn to critically think about themselves, others, and their learning,” she adds. “Topics such as fairness, tolerance, bias and prejudice are frequently explored. Actively participating in this learning environment helps prepare them for the world that lies ahead.”
St. Leo Parish Catholic School
At St. Leo Parish Catholic School in Winston-Salem, students in kindergarten through fifth grade can study Chinese, French, and Spanish language and culture, while Middle School students can specialize in a specific language.
Additionally, the student body celebrates the Chinese New Year each year and International Peace Day each September.
“Students wear heritage clothing and pray for understanding among all peoples of the world,” says Georgette Schraeder, principal.
“The celebration of cultural diversification brings hope for peaceful solutions to the world’s concerns regarding the environment, respect for individual freedom and nurturing of creativity,” she adds. “Students need to know a comfort with cultures different from their own.”
Westchester Country Day School
At Westchester Country Day School in High Point, the foreign language curriculum begins with both Mandarin and Spanish instruction in kindergarten. Students can continue to study these languages through high school and can add French in middle school.
Every three years, the school’s modern language department sponsors an International Day in which the community comes together to experience native foods, customs and music of different cultures.
“This day provides many of our families with a wonderful opportunity to share their family traditions with their children’s schoolmates,” says Betty Flythe, faculty dean and director of college guidance.
The school also recently hosted 24 students through the German American Partnership Program, while 13 Westchester students studied abroad in Germany.
“Whether we are talking about economics or education, our world is seeing borders dissolve,” says Gardner Barrier, assistant head of school and head of Westchester’s Upper School.
“It’s clear that multiculturalism has happened and that young people will need to be culturally fluent,” he adds. “The world that lies ahead is full of technological advancements that will mean that our students are heading into a world that is fast, diverse and global.”
Danielle Jackson is editor of Triad Living, Wake Living and Fifteen501 magazines.