(PLATTSBURGH- Monday October 24th 2022,) - City Hall welcomed a group of German exchange students on Thursday October 20th as part of the German American Partnership Program (GAPP). The students, comprising tenth and eleventh graders from Rastede, Germany have been staying in Plattsburgh since early October and attending classes at Plattsburgh High School (PHS). Students met with City of Plattsburgh Mayor, Christopher Rosenquest to learn about local government and share about their experience while in Plattsburgh.
The GAPP program was established in 1987 by now-retired PHS German teacher Anne Bailey and her German counterpart, Marika Heimbach. The Plattsburgh and Rastede schools have been carrying out the exchange every two years since then, while taking a pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Funded mainly through student fundraisers and family contributions, GAPP is a way for students to gain perspective about the world beyond the borders of Plattsburgh and their own country. Current program lead and PHS teacher, Jessica Klimkiewicz says, “It opens students to a different perspective and encourages discussions of culture, diversity, and tolerance… I see how it has inspired so many young people in both their personal and professional lives to continue the path of international work and travel after graduation”.
While in Plattsburgh, the students dove right into celebrations of homecoming at PHS including participation in a parade, a bonfire, a high-school dance, and attendance at sporting events. The students spent the following two weeks attending school with their host-partners and gaining perspective on the differences/similarities between school-life in the USA versus school-life in Germany. They made an appearance at a Board of Education meeting while here, and visited Glasgow and Oak Elementary Schools, as well as Stafford Middle School to share some German culture throughout the Plattsburgh City School District.
While in Plattsburgh the students stay with local host families who have taken the students on many adventures including outings in area cities like Montreal, Saratoga, Boston, and Burlington. Students have also been introduced to the challenges and rewards of hiking the Adirondack Mountains and marveling at the beautiful foliage in our region this time of year.
Of her experience in the program, Aimee Peters says, “Coming here is the most exciting thing I've ever done in my life because it's so far from home. Everything worked out for me so much better than I ever imagined like with the family who I really love, and the friend group I have here is great- everyone is funny and nice and we have the best time together. I wish I could stay longer because I don't want to go home now."
The students will be flying home tomorrow, October 25th. In the Spring of 2023, Plattsburgh high school students will be disembarking for their exchange experience in Rastede, Germany.