Jason Marzini, teacher adviser for the knows that Woonsocket Students could benefit from a Global Citizenship Program.
Woonsocket, Marzini believes, would be perfect place to implement the innovative year long, credit bearing academic plan, currently in its eighth year at Harwood Union High School in Vermont. The real-world educational opportunity culminates in a a three week travel study to Rwanda.
"I think a lot of kids in Woonsocket are disenfranchised and this type of program builds hope and empowers people that they can have impact," said Marzini.
Woonsocket High School began it's relationship with the African country during the 2010-2011 school year. Students in grades 10 through 12 learned about the Rwandan genocide and in December, took part in featuring students from Harwood Union High School’s Rwanda Program, who had recently made an educational trip to Africa. Rotary International students have since completed a book drive, and are preparing to send over 1000 books to the country.
Marzini has worked closely with the Rotary Club, Woonsocket High School, and Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator Caroline Doherty to prepare for the next step: development of a WHS Global Citizenship Program. The group has designed (and even began to fund) the proposal, a unique chance for city students to earn credits investigating global issues through out-of-school instruction, independent research, community service learning, and cross-cultural exploration.
Only one obstacle remains for the program to take flight: approval of the Woonsocket School Committee.
Marzini presented his proposal at the June 22 School Committee meeting, receiving recommendations by both former Superintendent Robert Gerardi and Chairman Marc Dubios. The trip itself would be offered to kids in grades 11 and 12 and would cost $3,000, with all funds to be raised by the students. Committeewoman Vimala Phongsavanh offered to donate 10% of her member stipend to the project.
After a brief presentation Marzini stayed to answer questions and concerns about the proposal. Committeewoman Eleanor Nadeau inquired about the safety of the country. Rwanda, Marzini explained, has been deemed a safe place to do business by the World Trade Organization and has been recovering in relative peace since the 1994 genocide.
Committee members Linda Majewski and Eleanor Nadeau voted against the plan. Committeewoman Anita McGuire Forcier was not present, creating a 2-2 tie vote.
The proposal was rejected.
"I have concern about international travel with minors," explained Majewski. "I think it's best left for college students."
"I suggest you reschedule," said Dubois in reference to McGuire Forcier's absence.
The proposal will be heard again Wednesday night. This time, Marzini will bring along an instructor from Harwood Union High School, where the students are planning for their eighth trip to the country. Nadeau and Majeski have both told supporters they are willing to take a second look.
Marzini said he is confident the proposal will receive approval on Wednesday. "It's important," he explained, "because it expands inner city kid's perspectives and they become global citizens."