Each January, scholarships funded by our generous supporters, enable student representatives from our partner communities to come to California to participate in our local exchange. Students stay with host families and engage in a full month of activities focused on collaborative projects with Sonoma County GSE students. The exchange reunites friends, brings new momentum to local projects, and often, is the first time that visiting students have been to another country.
LOCAL SERVICE PROJECTS
Student ambassadors visit each of GSE’s project sites and get involved with local students in the planning, maintenance, and expansion of projects. Many of GSE’s projects have been catalyzed during our local exchanges. Students visiting in January of 2009 spoke at a Sebastopol city council meeting and expressed their desire to help students at Analy HS build the Village Park Garden. It was this team effort and energy that convinced the city council to approve GSE’s use of the field that is now an abundant and beautiful garden.
WHY IS RECIPROCAL EXCHANGE IMPORTANT?
Reciprocal exchange is a key element of GSE’s mission. Sharing local culture and providing students the opportunity for international travel, opens student’s hearts and minds. Student ambassadors are selected to represent their communities based on excellent leadership and participation in their GSE programs.
Our visiting students give presentations about GSE projects in their home community to students at local elementary, high schools, and universities. These presentations and discussions give students the opportunity to tell about their country, their culture, their youth leadership experiences, and themselves. GSE works to break stereotypes and remove cultural barriers through building friendships, working together and representing our local cultures.
In between school visits and work on local projects, students visit the Sonoma Coast and the Redwoods. We take a trip to the Bay Area to see the amazing murals in the Mission, walk the golden gate and explore the city. Trips spark conversations about ethnic, social and economic dynamics of the area and of the larger U.S. In 2013, students will also stay in Contra Costa County and Oakland as part of their ambassadorial visit.
Day 1 — Visiting students arrive and meet host families
Day 2 — Students tour Sebastopol and participate in Village Park Garden workday
Day 3 — Field day at Laguna de Santa Rosa restoration sites
Day 4 — Shadowing at Northwest Prep, Cross-cultural discussion
Day 5 — Working visit to Windsor High and Wise Core garden
Day 6 — Weekend spent with host families
Day 7 — Weekend spent with host families
Day 8 — Hike at Armstrong Redwoods, and visit to Sonoma Coast
Day 9 — Presentations at local primary schools to share about home communities and local GSE projects, Village Park Garden workday in the afternoon
Day 10 — Presentations at primary schools, afternoon visit to Analy’s Eco-Action Garden
Day 11 — Travel to Marin to work at Drake High School Garden, potluck with Drake Families
Day 12 — San Francisco Visit- Golden Gate Bridge Walk, tour of Mission District Murals and dinner at Indian food restaurant
Day 13 — Weekend with families
Day 14 — Weekend with families
Day 15 — Field day at Sonoma County Land Trust sites
Day 16 — Shadowing at Sonoma Academy, and work on school garden with exploratory class
Day 17 — Students stay with Sonoma Academy families and shadow host students
Day 18 — Free morning, good bye dinner in the evening