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Voyaging Virtually
Alden Watts

This past year has been challenging in many ways for Priory students, but one of the hardest adjustments for many was not being able to see the world through our typical robust offering of school travel. Programs to Japan, Fiji, and Peru in 2020 and 2021 had to be canceled due to the Covid outbreak. For many students, these trips would have been their first opportunities to go abroad, see a different way of life, discover the world with their friends, and bring back the priceless new perspectives travel can bring.

So instead of taking the Priory out in the world, the Global Leadership Center, which oversees school travel, has been bringing the world to the Priory with virtual offerings that have connected our students with distant places while remaining safely on the school campus.

Through an exciting partnership with student travel companies WorldStrides and Camps International, high school students have had opportunities to connect with several different countries around the world, and talk to people there about their lives and work. The format has allowed for robust cultural exchange, and a window into the world of sustainable development work.

Camps International is a “social enterprise” that works with communities around the world to attain UN Sustainable Development Goals while bringing in students from the English-speaking countries to learn about sustainable development and to experience the rich cultures of the host countries. Through the magic of Zoom, Priory high school students spoke with Camps International staff in five different countries: Cambodia, Borneo, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Peru.

The Design Thinking class students spoke with the first four of those countries, applying what they have learned about the design thinking process to understand how Camps International tackles their projects of wildlife conservation, education, and public health.

Over spring break, a group of adventurous juniors and seniors did a deep dive into the culture and development of Peru. The Camps staff there graciously gave their time over four days to share Peruvian culture and go into detail about their food security and sanitation projects in rural villages, including how those projects have been affected by the pandemic. Students connected these ideas to our local version of those goals in HawaiĘ»i, the Aloha+ goals for sustainable growth, and tapped into local knowledge, too. Priory alumna Stephanie Albaña ’20 Zoomed in to talk about her experience interning at the Aloha+ initiative and studying sustainability in college, and Junior Cherisse Wong shared her current project to grow local food in our school gardens and reduce plastic consumption on campus.

By exchanging cultures and ideas about sustainability near and far, high school students at the Priory are developing the global awareness they will need to navigate a complex and connected world. No matter the challenges, the GLC wants to ensure that students get the invaluable benefits of interacting with other cultures and perspectives. Thanks to the generosity of the Stevens World Peace Foundation, the school can offer meaningful educational experiences like these exchanges, while planning for a future in which the students can pack their bags, pack on to planes, and pack in the global experiences in person.

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