By ALVIN REINER
---- — WILLSBORO — The experiences of city and country teens are often worlds apart.
“I can’t believe I touched a cow,” Isaiah Rowe exclaimed during a recent visit to the Lee Garvey Farm in Willsboro. “I can’t process that in my brain.”
Rowe was among a group of students and educators from Wadleigh Secondary School and Frederick Douglass Academy II in New York City who visited the North Country as scholars with College for Every Student.
They watched the farmer milk the cows, and Garvey and his sister, Krista Moran, introduced them to the equipment they use and other aspects of farming.
The walk through the cow barn was eye-popping.
“Oh, my God, that is the weirdest thing,” one student called out. “(That cow’s) tongue is so huge!”
“Eating and pooping at the same time,” another teen said. “That’s crazy!”
A bat darted through the barn, and the startled visitors pulled their jackets over their heads — at first, they thought it was a bird.
Then the scholars were treated to farm-fresh apples, cheese and apple cider.
“They seem to be having a grand time coming here to see the cows,” Moran said.
‘SO FAR AWAY’
This was the sixth year Willsboro Central School hosted New York City students through College for Eevery Student’s Home and Away Exchange Program.
“Our kids look forward to this all year,” French teacher Marie Blatchley in an email. “They enjoy both hosting the New York City students and then getting the opportunity to visit their schools a few days later.”
The students from the city welcomed the opportunity to see rural life, but the visit raised some questions about wide-open spaces.
“How do people handle it?” Ariely Christian wondered. “Everything is so far away, while everything is so close in the city.”
Classmate Julissa Frias, who is looking into industrial engineering, echoed some of the same sentiments.
“The city is a different world,” she said. “Looking at this experience, upstate is a very big neighborhood. It surprised me that every grade has only about 15 kids.”
“It’s a change of pace,” John Jolivette observed. “They say you should go away to college. This (visit) would help to visualize something else than what I am used to. This is nothing like the landscape where I live.”
Part of the North Country visit focused on exposing the high-school students to a variety of college campuses.
College for Every Student Program Director Leroy Nesbitt led a financial-aid workshop at Willsboro Central School. Then the students visited Clinton Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh for campus tours and a career-guidance workshop.
“This is a great opportunity for both our New York City and Willsboro scholars,” said College for Every Student Director Rick Dalton. “Like many of the students that we serve, their only chance of getting on a college campus is through CFES-sponsored activities, and this exchange program allows them to visit colleges outside of their region.”
“I am a shy person, so maybe this experience will get me out of my shell,” Theresa Huth said of her visit to the North Country.
“I hope to major in the field of business. I think it is important to get out and meet new people and get connections.”
The CEF scholars from both Willsboro and New York City also collaborated on a jointly planned service project — they delivered flowers in personalized, hand-painted terracotta pots to a local senior citizens center.
TRIP TO NYC
A group of Willsboro students then traveled to New York City to experience life from an urban perspective.
Teams of College for Every Student scholars from around the city met at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for the CFES Student Leadership Summit, a scholar-directed event designed to build and strengthen leadership skills and emphasize the important role they play in college and career success.
The Willsboro scholars and their New York City peers wrapped up their exchange with a visit to Columbia University.
Willsboro Central’s Austin Ferris traveled to the city as part of the program.
“It’s a lot different there, especially the class sizes,” he said.
“I had been to New York City before, so it was not that shocking. (But) the experience switched me to consider going to a college in the city, as I want to live somewhere else for a while.”
“Our students will come away from the exchange with new friends and new perspectives on being a young adult,” Willsboro Superintendent Steve Broadwell said via email before the trip.
“They will have a better understanding of life in the city and the challenges of city life, as well as the benefits of living in (New York City).”
Email Alvin Reiner: firstname.lastname@example.org