Today is Monday. Our delegation started the first day of the visit to the Stissing Mt High School (SMHS). SMHS is one of the four schools within Pine Plains Central School District. The other three are Stissing Mt Middle School, Seymour Smith Elementary School and Cold Spring Elementary School. The present Superintendent of the Schools is Ms Linda Kaumeyer.
The temperature outdoors was very low, only about -10°C or 14°F, but the American students got to school very early. According to the school regulations, all the students have to get into the classrooms by 7:35 am.
We stayed at the school library for one period and all our students were sitting in on the class with their hosting students.
During the second period, the whole school suspended for an assembly to welcome the Chinese delegation. When we lined up to enter the assembly hall, the whole house rose to their feet and welcomed us with applause. It was really a grand scene.
There was no regular agenda for the assembly, such as the speeches by the principal of the hosting school and the head of the Chinese delegation, instead, the performance began directly.
The school owns a huge brass band, consisting of about 80 people according to a rough estimate. First, the band played the American anthem and the Chinese anthem successively. Then they gave quite a few other items at a rather high level. The whole program lasted one period.
At about 11:30 am, we met with Ms Linda Kaumeyer and had a brief courtesy talk with her. Ms Kaumeyer told us that she would arrange a roundtable meeting for us to talk with the principals of the schools in the district on Thursday afternoon.
In the afternoon, the Chinese students entered the classrooms once again and we the teachers also sat in on an English lesson.
A warm, grand welcoming dinner was held in the school cafeteria in the evening. Some renowned figures in Pine Plains were invited to the dinner, and all the school leaders were also present. All the hosting families had brought abundant food from their homes.
Mr Eliot Spitzer, the new governor of New York State, sent a letter (See below for the full text) which was read out at the welcoming dinner. He heaped praise upon the exchange program, pointing out: "By connecting teenagers from different countries, with different backgrounds, you foster their growth as individuals with greater tolerance, understanding, and appreciation for diversity as well as for all that we have in common."
Congratulations from the NY Governor
February 5, 2007
I am delighted to send greetings to everyone gathered and welcome our Chinese visitors to this great State and the wonderful community of Pine Plains.
Every day we find ourselves in an increasingly more global, yet, at the same time, more locally diverse world. International exchange programs help students learn first-hand about other cultures and customs – broadening the perspectives of the participants and the communities in which they live.
For the ninth year, young people from Middle School #29 in Nanjing and Stissing Mountain High School meet as strangers and develop lifelong friendships. This cross-cultural partnership has flourished under the direction and leadership of Mr Hua Mingyou and Ms Karen Pogoda, and I applaud them and everyone involved for their efforts. By connecting teenagers from different countries, with different backgrounds, you foster their growth as individuals with greater tolerance, understanding, and appreciation for diversity as well as for all that we have in common.
With an impressive itinerary ahead of you, the next few weeks are certain to be both exciting and memorable – only to be repeated when Pine Plains travels to China. Again, I wish to welcome everyone and hope that you enjoy all that you are about to experience.
ELIOT SPITZER (Signature)