Today is a notable day in my Rowland Fellowship. I’ve spent the last year and a half forming and refining a plan for how Montpelier High School, a public school, could enroll tuition-paying international students. And today, I will be sending our first ever acceptance letter to an international student who wants to come to school here. What a delight! Let me explain a little bit about how we got here.
How did we find this student?
There are thousands of recruiting agencies in the world. It’s just that most public schools don’t bother to recruit because they have a captive local audience. It’s very common for private schools to use a recruiting agency to find international students, but not so normal for public schools. Through my Rowland work, Montpelier High School is currently listed with four different recruiting agencies, and one of them connected us with this student.
How is this different from a regular exchange?
Like many other public schools, we already have international students, like those who come through a Rotary exchange, but to be clear, those types of programs don’t allow students to choose their school abroad. Students only choose the country. Additionally, those students don’t pay tuition to the school, so many schools limit the number of non-paying international students, because effectively they are getting that education for free. The program I’m working on uses a different kind of visa, a kind where the students do pay tuition, and they do get to pick the school.
Why does this matter?
Montpelier High School has a limit of accepting only four international students through the regular non-paying exchange. This means it’s entirely possible that a student may never encounter one of these students in their classes. If we aim to help our local students be world-citizens, we should provide our students the opportunity to get to know people who come from different backgrounds from their own. It has recently become painfully apparent that valuing differences and diversity is critical for a functional society. I’m grateful that we’ll be able to provide our students with more opportunities to practice valuing diversity, particularly in our largely racially homogenous state.
My Rowland Fellowship has been somewhat unique from the others in my cohort because I have a distinct measurement of success – whether we find students to participate or not. And today marks the day when I can say that it will be a success.
I say that it “will be” a success because the success is not just in sending an invoice for tuition, but rather, it will be a success when this student graduates from Montpelier High School, having made many friends and having found Montpelier to be the welcoming community we know it is.