Three Providence Day students are reflecting on their recent visit to a Navajo Reservation, which happens to be the site of one of PD's Network of Complementary Schools partners in Arizona.
For Juniors Maddie and Sophie Henderson, and senior Ashley Kropf, “everything about it was different, the landscape, the remoteness, the school setting”, said Shelley Mikszan, Network Advisor for Providence Day School. “I think the kids were more surprised than anything that the kids were just like them.”
The Network of Complementary Schools encourages students to get outside their comfort zone and learn about other cultures and environments, “I had never experienced a learning environment other than Providence Day’s,” said Sophie Henderson. “When we first got to the Rock Point Community School, we felt a little out of place.” After hearing the National Anthem in the Navajo language, the students were paired with their “buddy,” whom they would shadow at school for the duration of their stay. The students realized how similar, yet different, their school days were.
At Rock Point, most of the classes focus on the preparing for the future, while the Navajo topics focus on preserving the past. “Both Sociology and Economics had a main focus on spending your money wisely. Advanced Navajo was a class where they learned about their ancestors and practiced their Navajo language skills.” Students at Rock Point were required to take a Navajo class each year in order to graduate and as seniors, would spend their intervention period looking for college scholarships online.
Student exchanges within the network last up to two weeks, with most students shadowing during the school day and getting a taste of the local culture while staying with a host family. The trip to Rock Point was different. The students and faculty stayed at the closest hotel, which was 45 minutes away, but were still able to experience the local culture. They attended a Rock Point basketball game, where the boys’ team is number one in the state and the girls are number three. Basketball games are an important event on the Navajo Reservation and the students were able to experience that first hand, surrounded by the Navajo community of all generations.
Providence Day and Rock Point are two of 18 members of the Network of Complementary Schools, a group of schools that work together to provide students and faculty the opportunity to “participate in a Network program by taking time out of their normal academic schedules to travel and experience the educational community of a member school,” their website states.
The schools within the network understand the importance of providing students with a diversity of experiences, with “the opportunity to grow and increase their capacity for change by grappling with difference, understanding the position of the outsider, and learning to listen in different ways and for different outcomes.”
Providence Day has been a member of the Network of Complementary Schools since Head of School Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw joined the Charger family. Cowlishaw had prior involvement with the network at his previous school and introduced the two when he arrived.
Mikszan, who also serves as the Director of Advancement for the board, uses the trips as professional development. The exchanges provide examples for faculty and staff to see and experience how other schools truly operate, and provide opportunities to continue to elevate how things are done at PDS.
After the recent natural disasters in Houston and Puerto Rico, both locations of school within the Network, PDS joined the other network schools to fundraise for the two affected by the devastation. “It’s a big family and an organization emulated what we have here at PD,” said Mikszan. “Everyone is working together for a common goal”
“Of everything I’m involved in, the Network is truly my favorite thing,” said Mikszan. “I want more students and faculty to take risks and see and learn something they didn’t know before.”