DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A trip to China last month by Foxcroft Academy Head of School Arnold Shorey and Assistant Head of School for Academics Jon Pratt had the two working to further build relationships between the school and the other side of the globe.

An unexpected result of the excursion is that Foxcroft Academy will be sponsoring a student from the BN Vocational School’s Chengdu campus, located in southwestern China, to come to Dover-Foxcroft for 30 days to become immersed in American culture.

Shorey said there were several purposes for the trip, one of several in the last few years made by administrators at the boarding and day school.
These included a conference on relationship building between schools in the U.S. and China and a tour of a number of Chinese schools also made by representatives of other secondary schools: Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, North Yarmouth Academy and Camden Hills Regional High School.

“I also had meetings with parents of current students. I did some admissions work for next fall and I did some fundraising,” Shorey said. He said the school is working with Kaplan on future programs for student and teacher exchanges, and Foxcroft Academy is looking to host English as a Second Language summer camps in 2013.

“Throughout the process both Jon and I had to give presentations,” Shorey said. Pratt added that one of his presentations to Chinese high school students covered the technology Foxcroft Academy students use in the classroom on a daily basis. The presentations were translated and Shorey and Pratt had visual slide shows prepared by Communications Officer Mark Chevalier, such as those of the sites at Foxcroft Academy, to further illustrate their points.

“We found that they have computer labs, but not the one-to-one technology like we have here,” Shorey said about Foxcroft Academy’s iPad program.

Toward the conclusion of the trip to China, Shorey and Pratt visited the BN Vocational School in Chengdu. Shorey said the boarding school receives no government funding but the approximately 200 coed grade 10-12 students are able to attend tuition-free through charities and sponsorships made to the school by businesses benefiting from the training students receive.

“They learn to live life and to learn a trade,” Shorey and Pratt said about the school.

The BN Vocational School’s mission is to prepare students for careers in the fields of electrical work, hospitality and child care.

The two Foxcroft Academy administrators learned that many of the BN Vocational School students were orphaned by the 2008 earthquake that struck Sichuan province. The Chengdu campus was founded the year after the earthquake and is run by Principal Chen Yan Lin, who also serves as the vice chairman for the Youth Development Foundation of Sichuan Province.

Shorey gave a presentation to the BN Vocational School students about Foxcroft Academy and its mission to provide a comprehensive education to all students. Shorey said that everyone learns differently and what is important is for students to strive to be their best.

“The mission of the school really tugged at our heartstrings,” Shorey said. He said he and Pratt were so moved they decided then and there to sponsor one student per year to come to Foxcroft Academy for 30 days.

“We had no intention of sponsoring a student when we headed over,” he said.

“It was an incredible experience and the mission of the school is very impressive,” Shorey said. “The students have overcome obstacles in life and are learning to become successful citizens.”

“The student who learns English the best will have the opportunity to come here,” Shorey said, as the pleasantly surprised Chen mentioned she would use the trip as motivation for the students to study hard as they learn the English language.

Shorey said Foxcroft Academy’s sponsorship may be the students’ only opportunity to come to the U.S.

“We want them to be able to shadow a student, live in the dorm or with a host American family,” he added.

“These trips to China are very, very important,” Shorey said. “Like a business, you are building relationships and you have to do that in person.”

Shorey said meetings with current and prospective parents of students who will board at Foxcroft Academy from abroad are vital as, just like parents of the day students, they want to know all about their child’s school.

“You just can’t send a flier to China. You have to go, you have to build relationships and you have to sit across the table to negotiate,” he said.

“Being there in China you learn so much more than through email or on the phone,” Pratt added.

“We are trying to build relationships with individual schools for a better understanding of our students and the academic programs they are coming out of,” Pratt said.

The groundwork was established for student and teacher exchange programs and the sharing of curriculums with different Chinese schools.

“This will provide opportunities for our boarding students, our day students, and this will provide an outlet for new students and to do professional development around the things they see us doing well,” Shorey said, adding that all Foxcroft Academy students are being prepared for the global society.

He said teachers will be able to see some of the methods used by colleagues across the globe in and out of school.

“Even in China teachers wonder what to do with cellphones in the classroom,” Pratt said as an example.