Mohawk looking at GCC, Chinese partnerships
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BUCKLAND — To expand student programs, Mohawk Trail Regional School is hoping to form partnerships with Greenfield Community College and with Chinese students, possibly with the help of an international consulting firm.
School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti and GCC President Robert L. Pura have started discussing possible collaborations in theater/performing arts and in other venues.
“GCC would welcome our students,” Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole told the school board recently. “We see this as probably the first of many conversations you will be hearing about from Michael (Buoniconti).”
In March, about 140 Mohawk students came to GCC, along with 40 to 50 business volunteers, to participate in a one-day financial-planning workshop hosted by People’s United Savings Bank. Both Mohawk and GCC officials consider the program a big success. The lobby at GCC provided a roomier, more pleasant space than the high school’s gymnasium. And Mohawk students who had never been to GCC before got a taste of what it would be like to come there after high-school graduation.
“We have students here from all the area high schools, through dual-enrollment,” said Pura, in a follow-up telephone interview. “We’re anxious to build collaborations that increase opportunities for our high school students. We want to work with other schools, to enhance what they have to offer. That’s not a unique idea for this community, Pura continued. “It’s a long-standing way of doing things around here, but it’s not true everywhere — or even in this state.”
Pura said GCC already has collaborative programs with the Franklin County Technical School, Turners Falls High School and Greenfield High School.
In 2008, Buoniconti first pitched the idea of opening Mohawk Trail Regional School up to tuition-paying students from other parts of the United States and from other nations.
In 2011, the Mohawk School Committee voted to get federal certification for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which required training so that the school could accept international students.
This year, Buoniconti and Dole are thinking of bringing Chinese students to Mohawk for three- to five-day summer workshops and as tuition-paying students for a school year.
Dole said discussions with GCC and with the consultant are still very preliminary.
“At this stage, we’re really exploring these possibilities,” she stressed.
The school board was given information about Fox Intercultural Consulting, which provides a variety of educational and cultural programs between the U.S. and China.
Dole said that many students from China who want to attend college in the United States need English language exposure, and are interested in a year of high school first.
She said Mohawk could host short summer camp programs that last from three to five days. “Chinese students are paying for that program,” she said. “Other school districts are looking at it as a way to enhance revenues, while broadening international awareness of their local students.”
Dole told school board members that Mohawk might want to accept two to three tuition-paying students from China a year.
Shelburne Falls has a Sister City, Mutianyu in China, which Dole has visited.
When school board members asked if Mohawk could host students from Mutianyu, Dole explained that Shelburne Falls’s “sister” is a village about the size of Hawley, with the Great Wall of China running through it, and with only one elementary school. She said Mutianyu secondary students go to different schools in a large metropolis, away from their home town. She said families that can afford to send their children here for a year would be more likely to come from a larger city.
Dole’s own education was largely shaped by her own international experiences. At 11 years old, she started writing to a penpal in Japan, and started learning Japanese words. A few years later, her family hosted a Japanese exchange student. When Dole was a junior at Mohawk, she traveled to Japan through a scholarship program.
“It inspired me to study,” she said.
Dole became a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Thailand, and went on to train Peace Corps volunteers for three years after that. She managed an HIV prevention program in Thailand and wrote about her experiences when pursuing a master’s degree. She also lived in Australia for a time.
“I believe very strongly in the power of international opportunities,” she said.
Besides visiting Mutianyu, Dole was among three Mohawk members to travel to China, thanks to a Five College program.
Mohawk is preparing to offer Mandarin Chinese language courses to its students in coming years.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277