Cape Henry Collegiate’s Global Connections students prepare for trip to Israel

February 22, 2016

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“So, what are your views on Donald Trump?” asks Joyce Schwartz, an English literature teacher at Ramot Yam School in Michmoret, Israel. Her students stare at the Skype screen in silence, awaiting an answer to one of the most politically loaded questions of the moment.

“I hate Donald Trump!” exclaims one Virginia Beach student on the opposite end of the camera, which pans across a Cape Henry Collegiate classroom. “If he becomes president, I don’t know, I may have to move to Israel I think.” With that begins a 20-minute conversation on American and Israeli life, their differences and similarities, and how it impacts the daily routine of these 20 teenagers.

Every week, these students gather together in their cyber classroom, united by a Skype feed, as part of a cultural immersion and exchange program between Cape Henry Collegiate and Ramot Yam School. As an extension of their classroom work, 13 students from Cape Henry Collegiate will travel to Israel this spring, hosted by their cohorts from Ramot Yam School.

Cape Henry Collegiate, in association with the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, spent several years developing their Global Connections course. “We’ve been speaking with schools in Israel for over 10 years now,” says William Fluharty, director of Nexus Global Studies at Cape Henry Collegiate. “We are thrilled to be able to give a group of students and faculty this opportunity.”

The Israel program kicks off the 11th year for Nexus Global Studies, Cape Henry Collegiate’s nationally renowned global education program. “We have developed a unique focus on people and planet by combining in-class curriculum with experiential education,” says Fluharty. “Travel is just one component of each of our programs, a component that students are more prepared for because of the foundation we’ve laid in the classroom.”

Students in Nexus Global Studies’ Israel program meet weekly with program leaders to discuss Israel’s history, current events, and cultural differences they may experience during their visit. Students find these classes invaluable, especially those traveling with Nexus for the first time. “As a student that isn’t the greatest at history, [the classes] helped me understand Israel’s historical background, allowing me to better understand the thrill and upcoming adventure,” says Julia Beck, Cape Henry Collegiate sophomore.

The pre-departure meetings, along with the Skype teleconferences with Ramot Yam School, prepare Cape Henry Collegiate students not only for the travel experience, but also to be future global leaders. “Our students are using technology to connect the dots around the world and at the same time are promoting Virginia-Israel relations,” says Schwartz.

For Cape Henry Collegiate students, the Skype teleconferences also give them an opportunity to interact with their Israeli host families. “The [conversations] prepare us by getting us more acquainted with the group of students we will be staying with, and what to expect when we stay with them,” says Cathleen Woodward, Cape Henry Collegiate junior.

Cape Henry Collegiate students will spend their first days in Israel exploring sections of Jaffa and Tel Aviv before heading to Michmoret. Students will spend five days attending classes at Ramot Yam School, and as part of their cultural immersion, will stay with host families from the school community.

Fluharty says that for many students, this immersion component not only becomes the most memorable part of the program, but also has the most impact. “Our students learn so much just by walking in the shoes of another teenager. The experiences our students will have, being truly immersed in the life of their host family, will impact them for the rest of their lives.”

In addition, students will spend two days exploring Jerusalem, with plans to view the Dead Sea Scrolls and various religious sites within the Old City. Students will also spend a day interacting with a Bedouin community located in the Negev.

The local Jewish community played an active role in crafting Nexus Global Studies’ program to Israel. David Brand, president and CEO of Alliance for Global Good, believes the program will equally benefit the students at Cape Henry Collegiate and Ramot Yam School. “These are tomorrow’s leaders, and it’s very important that they get educated at a very young age to what’s real, and what’s hearsay,” he says. “It’ll have a lifetime impression on the Cape Henry students, to be exposed to the situation in the Middle East, and to understand the great contributions that Israel is making.

“And it’s gonna have a lifetime impression on the Israeli students that they meet, to know that there are American students that care enough about their culture to live it and understand it.”

Ronald Kramer, president of Kramer Management Enterprises, believes Nexus Global Studies’ Israel program will afford students the opportunity to engage with the citizens, culture, and physical characteristics of a country with such a complex history. “I think that people hear a lot of things about Israel and the Middle East,” says Kramer, whose children traveled with Nexus. “You get the real picture when you get your feet on the ground over there.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the kids to experience the people of Israel, really understand the geography, and have a better understanding of the issues, unfiltered.”

Brand adds that this program will offer Cape Henry Collegiate students an honest perspective of Israeli life. “Believe me, they’ll see Israel’s problems, too. It’s not the Garden of Eden. There are social problems and political problems enough to fill volumes. But to understand what this country is doing for people, and the religious and social freedoms that exist, it has great relevance to the world today.”

While travel to the Middle East can give any parent cause for concern, many also see the benefit in encouraging their children to participate in this unique experience. Eric Apperson’s daughter, Virginia, will travel to Israel in the spring, as well as to South Africa and Peru this summer. “As parents, the program offers opportunities to immerse the kids in the Israeli culture that we could not offer on a family vacation, like the school visits and home stays,” he says.

Zelda Patrick, with both daughters traveling to Israel with Nexus Global Studies, says, “We believe that in order to never be afraid of diversity, you need to learn about different cultures of the world.

“We want our girls to be immersed in that. It deepens their knowledge of the world, religion, and culture as a whole.”

by Ali Brooke

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