According to The Association of Boarding Schools, Study Abroad Programs Not Just for College Students Anymore

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Service-oriented study abroad trend emerging in college prep boarding schools. According to The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), an increasing number of North American college preparatory boarding schools are offering study abroad programs at the high school level, most often with a service component.

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The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) is the official home of college-prep boarding schools and the definitive guide for students and families.

According to The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), an increasing number of North American college preparatory boarding schools are offering study abroad programs at the high school level, most often with a service component. This growing trend - begun in some schools as recently as this year and in others as far back as two decades - aids in providing a global education and preparing students not only for college but also for life.

Shawnigan Lake School, a boarding school located in British Columbia Canada, offers EDGE, a branded leadership program. Following the tsunami that devastated the coast of Thailand in 2004, a team of Shawnigan volunteers joined forces with Thai construction students to help in the gigantic rebuilding program. Shawnigan teams have returned to Thailand each year since, working with their counterparts to construct learning centers and to support educational opportunities in rural areas. Ability to pay is not a factor in selecting students into the program as it is supported by school donors.

"Looking back, it is apparent that our EDGE Leadership program was a natural step in the evolution of our school and our community," explains Peter Yates, the program's coordinator. "Citizenship used to have a local context, but today it is global."

Several other boarding schools have a dedicated faculty member focused on service abroad. Wasatch Academy in Utah recently hired a new Director of Experiential Education who is charged with designing trips of both cultural and humanitarian value. Students have the option of several Spring break trips each year. In 2010, Wasatch faculty members will accompany students to Costa Rica, Peru, Jordan, France, and Kenya, performing community service projects as they explore global cultures.

Not all programs are during Spring break, however, and some are through a third party organizer. Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania has a study abroad option managed by Sustainable Horizon, an independent organization that designs international programs for students at the high school and college levels with an emphasis on both community service and environmental education. Valley Forge cadets travel to a Costa Rican community during summer break to perform community service.

"Sustainable Horizon's international programs have a tremendous impact on students who immerse themselves in the experience, teaching them not to be afraid to step outside their comfort zones. This type of educational travel provides an unparalleled growth experience given the firsthand exchange of service, culture, language and laughter with local people," says Sustainable Horizon Founder Julian Jacobs. "Not only do students return home with a sense of accomplishment and greater awareness of the world, but they also ignite a burning desire in communities to invest in themselves and a sustainable future."

Another organization is Round Square, a group of about 80 independent schools worldwide, nearly 20% of which are North American boarding schools, according to The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS). Round Square embraces a philosophy of educating the whole person and it relies on six main pillars: Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service. Through Round Square, schools can send students abroad to help impoverished communities build new facilities, for example.

Along with the variety of ways schools have structured the programs, the service work itself differs. Students from British Columbia's St. Michaels University School travel each year on Spring Break and some years, at Christmas Break, to do service work abroad. Since 2005, they have visited Hope of a Child Orphanage in the Dominican Republic where they teach English, work on labor projects such as digging for a cistern and painting, and socialize with the children.

In some cases, private foundations have made grants to make these service trips possible. Two years ago, Arizona's Verde Valley School received a grant of $50,000 from the E.E. Ford Foundation for the expansion of its Millennium Development Goals Project in Malawi, Africa. The school has been aligned with the UN's Millennium Development Goals for several years, and Verde Valley students have adopted a Malawian village in addition to traveling to the village during Spring breaks for community work and cultural immersion.

The benefits of study abroad service programs include enhanced perspective of the world at large and the differences in culture and economy across the globe. As the world gets smaller, students graduate from high school and enter college already fit to be good global citizens. While the students do help those in need, they often find themselves benefiting just as much.

To learn more about these programs and other distinct dimensions of boarding schools, and the unique programs they offer to prepare students for college and for life, visit boardingschools.com.

About TABS

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) is the official home of college-prep boarding schools and the definitive guide for students and families. The Asheville NC based not-for-profit organization serves roughly 300 member schools across the United States, Canada, and abroad. Visit http://www.boardingschools.com for more information.

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