Cultural Exchange Program Comes Full Circle

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Amityville Memorial High School students are making friends all over Suffolk County. Through the school’s popular Cultural Exchange program, they welcomed peers from Bayport-Blue Point and East Islip high schools earlier in the year. In February, it was their turn to be the visitors.

Recently, students from Amityville’s Warrior Awareness Club, known as the WAC PAC, spent the day in East Islip. Students were welcomed with a big breakfast and took part in icebreaker activities. Each Amityville student paired up an East Islip student and followed the schedule of his or her host. East Islip staff members made T-shirts for all participants.

“I had a lot of fun spending the day my partner,” said Amityville sophomore Allany McCatty. “I enjoyed participating in her classes and I look forward to keeping in touch with her.”

Added senior Noah Odige, “It’s always interesting to see how other schools function throughout the day and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to get a glimpse into the life of an East Islip student.”

This was the first visit by Amityville to the home of the Redmen and they loved it, according to WAC PAC adviser Jason McGowan. Amityville hosted the East Islip students back in January for the inaugural visit. 

The WAC PAC also sent 30 students to Bayport-Blue Point High School for their visit to the home of the Phantoms. Amityville students and staff were greeted by the orchestra as they walked into the cafeteria. 

Bayport-Blue Point School District administrators led icebreaker activities in a conference room and students, who initially met in Amityville in November, were reintroduced to each other over breakfast.

In a true double exchange, Amityville senior Letizia Cazzaniga, an exchange student from Milan, Italy, was a part of the program and she connected with her partner, Emily. Sophomore Abel Tejada was paired up with Mr. McGowan's son, Trey, and won a badminton tournament together in physical education class.

“I loved spending the day in their high school,” junior Bryan Canales said. “All of the students were friendly toward us." 

After gathering together for a pizza lunch, the Amityville and Bayport-Blue Point students parted ways but not before exchanging phone numbers and social media information.

“Teenagers are teenagers, and that’s the point I am trying to make with this program,” Mr. McGowan said. “Even though we are a few zip codes away, connections can be made regardless of your background. It was beautiful to see the laughter and the hugs as we left each school. The major goal of this program is for students to learn about diversity by experiencing dissimilar school populations. Rather than discussing diversity in a typical classroom lesson, participants have the opportunity to experience it first-hand.”