At Mark Day School, global partnerships form a unique part of our program. And they are not just distant schools across the world that we sometimes connect with—rather, our partnerships are founded on deep, long-lasting reciprocal relationships.
Currently, we have three global partnerships:
South Africa: Kliptown Youth Program (KYP) & eSibonisweni. In 2002, former Director of Global and Special Programs Jenny Getz met with a few teachers and administrators from eSibonisweni Primary School, which serves a large area in rural northeast South Africa, about five hours from Durban. Their conversation that day explored the idea of a relationship between our two schools that, while partly philanthropic in nature, could grow into an educational partnership. In 2012, we started our partnership with KYP, an after school program where students get support with academics (tutoring) and enrichment activities (music, theater, dance, and sports) as well as school uniforms and food. It is a wraparound program for students who live in Kliptown, a part of Soweto in Johannesburg. Having partners in both rural and urban areas in South Africa helps give our students multiple stories of people living in that country. Since 2004, we have organized delegations to South Africa to visit both KYP and eSibonisweni every other year. January 2011 marked our first delegation to Mark Day of teachers and learners from eSibonisweni, and the following year, a group from KYP visited.
China: Beijing No. 2 Experimental School (Er Xiao). We have engaged in faculty exchanges with Er Xiao since 2008. Teachers and administrators from both schools have had an opportunity to closely observe teaching and learning in a different context, and our Mandarin program has benefited from having native speakers in addition to our teachers visiting the classroom. In 2013, Head of School Joe Harvey and Mandarin teacher Julia Huo-Kuramoto traveled to China and worked together with Er Xiao leadership to expand our partnership to include student delegations--including homestays for Mark Day students in Beijing. In spring 2014, the first group of Mark Day students visited our Beijing partners and we have had several Er Xiao delegations on campus, including a delegation of over 70 students and teachers in 2016 and another large delegation in 2019.
Costa Rica: Pan-American School. The Pan-American School (PAS) in Heredia, Costa Rica, accepted our invitation to partner in 2013. In PAS, we have found a school with values similar to ours and another avenue for linguistic and cultural discovery. Our first delegation of students and teachers visited PAS in February 2014, enjoying home stays and immersing themselves in the language and culture of our hosts. September 2014 marked the first delegation from PAS to campus.
When engaging in these intentional partnerships, the goal is to consider what we bring to the table and also what we can learn. “The first step of empathy is learning how to listen and observe before jumping in with ideas,” says Fernanda Pernambuco, Director of Partnerships, Equity, and Inclusion. “Developing long-lasting relationships is crucial to be able to learn who they are and how we can better connect.” The result is maintaining deep and trusting relationships that open the door for special opportunities. For example, in China, it is rare for people to welcome others into their homes, yet our 7th and 8th graders get to experience homestays when they visit Er Xiao.
One crucial element of partnerships: students who do not travel abroad to visit our partners get to experience these relationships. “When delegations visit the Mark Day campus, students who have never met our partners before already feel connected and are able to build deeper relationships much faster,” says Fernanda. “They are benefiting from the work that has happened years and even decades before. When they visit Mark Day’s campus, we make sure those delegations visit multiple grade levels and classrooms so they can make an impact on the whole school.”
Understandably, the pandemic put a pause on delegation visits. Virtual connection proved difficult for all of our partners, as well as Mark Day, especially in the beginning of the pandemic. We were fortunate to keep Thando Bezana from KYP as a virtual visitor to our music classes. It is but one manifestation of the extensive work behind the scenes that Fernanda continues to do to build and strengthen our partnerships, including through the pandemic.
This year, we are excited to jump back into our global partnerships in a familiar way. We are planning a Mark Day delegation to South Africa next summer 2023. If you are interested in learning more, come to the delegation meeting on Wednesday, September 21 at 5:30pm in the Flex Room. All interested families must attend this meeting. We are also working on having a delegation from KYP come to Mark Day during this school year—more to come! We are continuing the conversation with Er Xiao and Pan-American School, hoping to send a delegation of 7th and 8th graders to Costa Rica in the spring and perhaps welcome a PAS delegation as well.
If you’d like to learn more about our partnerships, keep an eye out for information about upcoming delegations or chat with Fernanda Pernambuco, Director of Partnerships, Equity, and Inclusion.