WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High School has partnered with Providence’s Hope High School in an effort to provide students with shared experiences that allow them to visit two college campuses, observe different high school learning environments, and develop a service-learning project.

So far, this pilot initiative between the two schools has been split across two days with a focus on visiting the University of Rhode Island and Brown University campuses and observing different learning environments at the respective schools. This program is a byproduct of collaborative workshops between the Chariho and Hope administrative teams as part of their work with the XQ+RI Grant, a grant focused on reimagining the high school experience.

“At the foundation of what we're trying to accomplish is building relationships,” said Chariho High School principal Craig MacKenzie. “Our primary goals are to develop relationships between our two schools and to see what living and learning looks like not only at the universities but also at our schools.”

In October, students from both high schools met for the first time at the University of Rhode Island. After listening to a panel of URI students and taking a tour of the URI campus, all the students traveled to Chariho High School, where Chariho students gave Hope students a tour of their high school.

On the second, most recent trip, the same students met again, this time at Brown University. While they were at Brown, students listened to 2014 Chariho graduate Zachary Gardell and took a campus tour of Brown. The group then walked back to Hope High School and Hope students showed Chariho students their school.

The idea for the program started last year when Chariho High School principal Craig MacKenzie realized that the majority of high-performing high school students had never set foot on a college campus.

“Our job is to provide experiences for kids early enough so that they can imagine themselves in those environments and thriving too,” MacKenzie said. “The sooner students can visualize their post-high school goals, the more engaged they'll be in figuring out how to give themselves as many choices as possible.”

MacKenzie added, “This is a great experience for Chariho students to connect with people from a different school community and try to understand what living and learning in an urban environment looks like. For Hope students, it's an opportunity to see what living and learning in a rural environment looks like.”

The group consisted of 22 students from all grade levels from both Chariho and Hope High School. To be selected, students had to be willing to participate in a service project, be interested in discovering learning environments in both an urban and a rural setting, and verify that they had never been on a college campus.

While some of the Chariho students admitted to feeling a bit out of place at Hope, several of them were impressed by the sense of community that they saw there.

“It seems there's a better community at Hope, where everyone knows everyone,” one Chariho student said. “And there's a lot more diversity at Hope, which I think makes for a better school culture because there's all different family backgrounds and history that gets woven together.”

Chariho freshman Ryan Cormier agreed, saying, “Everybody was a lot closer at Hope. When everybody was walking through the hallways, it seemed like everyone was saying 'hi' to everyone and it seemed like everyone knew each other's names.”

“I definitely felt out of place,” admitted Chariho junior Elizabeth Johnson. “But I think it was good for me to get outside of my comfort zone and be uncomfortable because that's what makes me grow. It's a growing experience and makes you realize that you're not always going to be in the comfort of your own home."

One Hope student named Angel who declined to give a last name said, “I feel like it was a good experience for [the Chariho students] because it is different. I enjoyed it because I like my school. I like Hope."

Although Chariho and Hope have different environments, they both have to deal with problems that affect the school. Mackenzie said he is inspired by the dedication of Hope High School’s administrators to improving their school.

“I think the issues that we have in our community are unique, but equally challenging as issues of urban living and learning,” MacKenzie said. “I think Hope has a lot of challenges in their school community and I'm totally impressed with their administration. In the face of some of the challenges in their school, they still really care about each other and care about their learning experience.”

The next step of this partnership will be to complete a service project together. The two schools will work independently and then come together in the coming months to complete a combined service project in the Providence and Chariho communities.

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