David Thompson Secondary School is hosting 17 students from China this month as part of an historic sister school partnership agreement. The students were welcomed with open arms in a ceremony at the Invermere high school Tuesday, April 3rd.
“We are honoured to host you in Canada, and I know we will make many memories together,” said DTSS Principal Darren Danyluk. “Today marks the beginning steps of a rewarding relationship.”
Paul Carriere, superintendent of Rocky Mountain School District #6, welcomed the students, and shared some of the history of this agreement.
“We wish you all the very best experience while you’re here,” said Mr. Carriere, describing the agreement between Rocky Mountain School District #6 and the Yuexiu Education Bureau in Guangzhou, China, as “historic.”
The program is the first of its kind under a Guangdong-B.C. memorandum of understanding (MOU). The seeds of this partnership go back to 1995 when the Province of BC and the province of Guangdong signed a province-to-province MOU, then renewed in 2011. In May 2016, School District #6 and the Yuexiu Education Bureau became the first two public school divisions to engage in an MOU after the two departments signed an MOU renewal.
Mr. Danyluk traveled to Guangdong in March to solidify this partnership with a memorandum of understanding ceremony, alongside the principals from Golden Secondary School and Revelstoke Secondary School.
In a follow-up interview, he said while there have been other exchanges, this one is significant for a few reasons: it is a closer connection with the People’s Republic of China, the number of students that have come here for the exchange is comparatively high, and the partnership that allowed students from B.C. to travel to the sister district in China is highly
unusual. This Spring Break, 14 students traveled to Guangzhou, including five from DTSS. Last year there was a similar exchange of local students to China.
Amy Shoup, manager of international education, agrees about the significance, saying the two-way flow of students between the provinces is quite new. She said they hope as a department to grow more “outbound opportunities for local students” moving forward. She expressed gratitude in a follow-up interview with the Pioneer for the host families that made this exchange possible.
“It’s a great opportunity for all the students to learn something about another culture; it’s a great experience for the Canadian students to get to know these Chinese students,” Ms. Shoup said.
Mr. Danyluk is a strong proponent to the exchanges, having experienced international travel himself and the growth that takes place on such trips. He says there is great value in sharing our culture and learning about another through these exchanges. He did more international travel with students as a young teacher.
“The kind of growth I saw with the students on the trips, the challenges they problem-solved, and to realize they can survive and have resilience – it’s invaluable … it’s priceless.”
For the local high school principal, he will call this exchange a big success if, by the end of the four weeks, the Asian students are interacting in informal ways with the Canadian students, and forging real relationships.
Other officials in attendance at the welcome ceremony included District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft, who told the 17 students a little about Invermere, including an interesting fact: the permanent population of Invermere, approximately 3,200 people, is less than the number of people in the Chinese student’s school back home.
MLA Doug Clovechok also welcomed the students, saying how great it is to have these guests in our community. He said the hope is similar exchange programs can expand to other parts of the province; meaning DTSS is forging a new path for B.C.
“Canada and China have had a longstanding relationship,” Mr. Clovechok said. “On behalf of the Province of British Columbia … welcome and have a great time.”
Duncan Macleod was the SD6 manager of international education until recently. He now works for a private company (Purcell International Education) that connects the district with an organization in China (Guangdong AQG Education Science and Technology Consulting Co. Ltd.) to arrange the international exchanges.
“Educational experiences like the one we are inaugurating today speak to the exciting potential of MOUs between education systems: they can create connections between students, build bridges between cultures, and inspire collaboration and camaraderie among a generation that will share in and shape the future of an ever-shrinking planet,” said Mr. Macleod.
While here, the students will be attending DTSS, as well as going on outings including skiing at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort ski area, visiting Banff, Lake Louise, Calgary, and Edmonton.