Arrive as Guests, Leave as “Mates”

Students from the Bootham School, a Quaker school in York, England, spend time on campus and in the city as part of an exchange program with SFS.

For the past 15 years, Sidwell Friends has partnered with the Bootham School, a Quaker school in York, England, on an exchange program that alternates years for visiting and hosting. When it’s Sidwell Friends’ turn to travel, students visit Bootham and other sites in England during Minimester. Last week, SFS had the honor of hosting 10 Bootham students and two staff members on the Wisconsin Avenue campus and in the homes of SFS volunteer families.

The guests were mostly middle school age, and they had all been hosts for Sidwell Friends students in England last year. Three Bootham students who are now in Upper School enjoyed a mini reunion with former guests Jimena Faz Garza ’20, Colleen Zeugin ’20, and Ben Froman ’20, as well as the chance to taste what life is like in an American high school as they shadowed Jimena, Colleen, and Ben in class.

“We’ve discovered that everything is bigger [in America] than it looks on TV, and that DC is the most amazing, vibrant city,” said Bootham faculty member Peter Rankin. “We realize that a week’s visit isn’t nearly enough time to do justice to either the School or the city.”

In addition to learning about the special green features of the Middle School, attending classes, and sampling the dining room food, the visitors did their best to see as much of the area as they could. According to Peter, they most enjoyed seeing the monuments at night, the Air and Space Museum, and the Vietnam Memorial. They also toured the Capitol, the National Cathedral, the Newseum, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the Portrait Gallery. Other “best bits,” he said, were attending a bar mitzvah and, for the girls, getting their nails done at Drybar salon. On the weekend, host families took their guests to an optional DC United soccer game and a barbeque at 6th grade science teacher Dan Robison’s house. (Dan and his children, Maxwell ’19 and Harry ’21, visited Bootham during a previous Minimester.) At the barbeque, said Dan, there was “lots of conversation, a huge appetite for burgers, a soccer match, and, of course, dessert. It was a nice time for the Bootham students to reunite over the weekend and the host families to connect.”

Bootham student Jake Chong gave the visit high marks. “I very much enjoyed my experience with both my Sidwell Friends family and the SFS staff,” said Jake. “I think this is a great opportunity for others who wish to learn about America’s capital.”

Before the group flew home, Peter thanked the SFS faculty and staff who guided them around the School and the city. “‘Dan the Man’ Robison, Domi Long, Barbara Munday, and Thu Nguyen were lovely. We couldn’t have asked for more friendly and generous guides. To quote George Fox, we have ‘walked cheerfully over the world,’ and at Sidwell Friends School, we have found friendship and peace.”

He also found the next item on his to-do list. “When we get home, we are going to start a petition to have a library rabbit.”

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