Good….and collateral good

Students reviewing book 2Giving back is required.

For everyone.

Whether you’re the recipient of a favor, a gift, or a kindness, thanks for an act of generosity is more than a nicety.

It’s a measure of our humanity.

It’s an indication that we are humble enough, thankful enough, thoughtful enough — and human enough — to turn around and give due nod to those people who have given to us. Even better is when one turns around and gives back.

But you’d be surprised how many people even fail to say “thank you.” Don’t believe me? How many of your former teachers have you thanked? How many of your employees or co-workers have you taken for granted?

How many people have you actually sought out for the sole purpose of acknowledging a kindness or paying it forward? How about the institution that awarded you a diploma or scholarship? Do you owe them anything?

Most of us consider ourselves to be grateful. But few of us  — if we are totally honest — are as grateful or as conscientious about giving back as we think we are. Or as we could be.

But there are notable exceptions.

Mary Gowan, dean of the College of Business, and Theresa Clarke, professor marketing

Mary Gowan, dean of the College of Business, and Theresa Clarke, professor of marketing

Recently, two JMU College of Business alumni donated 150 copies of the book Marketing in the Age of Google by Vanessa Fox. According to Theresa Clarke, professor of marketing, Fox is “one of the industry’s leaders regarding search engine optimization.”

Theresa will give the books to students in her junior- and senior-level marketing communications course (MKTG 384) and in her Internet Marketing Practicum (MKTG 477), which she’ll teach next spring.

“The book contains a lot of practical information to help a business be found when people are conducting searches,” Theresa says. “Search engine optimization is a big and growing field in the world of Internet Marketing, so this book can help our students deepen their understanding of one of the most timely areas of business today.”

The alumni — who wish to remain anonymous — have put a useful tool into the students’ hands as they prepare for and begin careers. The gift to the students is “a generous and thoughtful gesture from these alumni,” Theresa says. “While financial donations are always much appreciated, alumni can donate in other ways as well. I usually have alumni come to my classes to serve as guest speakers, mentors, judges of presentations, or in some other professional role. But a large book donation such as this is extraordinary in my mind, and I want my students to understand how supportive our alumni can be. I hope they are inspired to give back to JMU in their own ways someday.”

Dean of the College of Business Mary Gowan, agrees. “We appreciate the generosity of our alumni who take the time to give back,” she says. “It sends a strong message both to our current students and the university community as a whole. These alumni are truly making the difference for our students!”

And then there’s the collateral good. Not only are these anonymous alumni enhancing student education, they are setting an example with a creative way to give back. We applaud them!

Now who will follow suit?

Shout outs to Patty May (’94M), communications manager for the College of Business, for her help with this story and to Theresa Clarke for telling us about it. If you know of any creative ways alumni are giving back, let us know!

Reading the world

It’s very early on a summer morning. Harrisonburg’s Explore More Discovery Museum is quiet, empty. The doors are locked for the moment. Soon, though, a handful of children trickle in with their parents or grandparents. Some are wide-awake, raring to go. Others are sleepy-eyed and hang back. They’ve all gathered for a photo shoot for Madison magazine, along with Dr. and Mrs. Fred Fox. They’ve come to illustrate what’s most important about the museum’s “One World” exhibition. The shoot could be chaos, but it goes smoothly. Perhaps it’s good parenting. Or maybe it’s the books. Or both. Either way, we get it done so we can tell a story that’s important for children in the valley, for families, for the community — and for discovering a wonderful way to get to know ourselves and our neighbors……

232586 Fred and Gail Fox Portraits-1026A passion for reading the world

Gail and Fred Fox are passionate about literacy, diversity — and their community. That’s why they’ve championed One World, a popular exhibit in Harrisonburg’s children’s museum. The collection features children’s books, many in their native languages, from more than 42 countries around the world. (The number just went up!)

The creation of the exhibit was a bit serendipitous. In 2010, Explore More Discovery Museum was expanding, and the Foxes were asked to help. When Executive Director Lisa Shull (’81,’95M) posed the question, “What kind of exhibits to you want?” the couple suggested one where literacy and diversity would converge.

Gail, who formerly taught reading and literacy at JMU and worked as a reading coach in Harrisonburg City Public Schools for “No Child Left Behind,” and her husband Fred, a local orthopaedic surgeon, proposed an exhibit where Harrisonburg’s rich cultural diversity could be showcased through books.

And then they championed it.

“We’d been in other [children’s] museums where they had reading corners or diversity represented by pictures of children or something, but we felt [it was] very important to have this sort of concept in the museum,” Fred says.

Harrisonburg city schools, one of Virginia’s most diverse school systems, enrolls students from 40 countries, representing 44 foreign languages. More than 100 students are bi-or multi-lingual.

232586 Fred and Gail Fox Portraits-1002 2The idea for the exhibit had been percolating with the Foxes for some time. Earlier, through the Harrisonburg Rotary Club, Fred and Gail, along with a librarian at Waterman Elementary School in Harrisonburg, had started a literacy program through the local schools. “It was just an interesting blend of Gail’s background in early childhood literacy and my experience with Rotary,” Fred says. “Out of those two interests we had formed … Project Read, focusing on elementary, helping support children to learn reading in K-3 and in the preschool reading program, which all the [local] Rotary Clubs in some form participated in,” he says.

A longtime Rotarian himself, Fred notes that literacy has long been a focus of Rotary International, so when the opportunity at the museum arose, once again, the fit was right. Many local Rotary Club members donated books they found abroad and brought back to Harrisonburg.

Because of Harrisonburg’s diverse population, the exhibit also presents enormous opportunities for international understanding, which Gail knows is essential for student success in the city’s schools. “It’s the United Nations in every school here,” she says.

The One World book collection’s location within the museum was strategic, the Foxes believe. It brings literacy and diversity into a place where children are automatically drawn. Its international character, Gail explains, “says to children, ‘you have a place here. Your culture is part of what is going on downtown at Explore More.”

Gail adds that children who might not otherwise have access to books can be exposed to them at the museum. “They have them right here in a safe environment where they can come.”

Immigrant families, she adds, are more likely to visit the museum before they visit the public library. And with Massanutten Regional Library located next door, it becomes an entre to the library next door. The placement also aligns with the museum’s longstanding mission to serve all community children.

Fred cites a local family whose child, adopted from Ethiopia, discovered a book in One World from his home country. “It was sort of a ‘wow’ moment,” he says.

Although electronic books and online sourcing is growing, there’s no substitute for a hands-on book when it comes to children, Gail believes. And she is an unapologetic advocate for traditional books.

Gail and Fred Fox help set the lights while the children pick out books.

Gail and Fred Fox help set the lights while the children pick out books.

“Through books you find the language,” she says, “you find how stories work, whether they’re oral or written…. There is such an intimacy between the reader and the child that you can’t get through flicking through a story on an Ipad.”

For a child from a different culture — or any child, for that matter — the experience of sharing a book is potent. Gail says, effusively: “Do you know how powerful it is when you’re reading a book to a child and [the child says] ‘Oh, that person looks like me!’”

The exhibit’s shelves have been filled with the help of several community organizations, including Blue Ridge Community College’s SPECTRUM International Multicultural Club. The group donated more than 40 bilingual books to One World. According to their website: “The purpose of purchasing these books is two-fold; it provides newly immigrated families the ability to read in their native language as well as learning the English language. It also provides SPECTRUM members the opportunity to share their heritage with the community.”

Books have also come from Rockingham Memorial Hospital’s Wellness Center, United Way, and Knitworks, a local business. Several were even sent by a AAA tourist group from Chicago after they visited Harrisonburg.

Impassioned advocates, the Foxes regularly encourage friends to bring books back from their international travels — including Gail’s fellow JMU alumni — to help grow the One World book collection. They hope it will encourage literacy and promote deeper cultural understanding throughout the community — and they believe it will, Gail says, “because children lead the way.”

Many thanks to Fred and Gail Fox, Daphyne Thomas (COB), Cristin Lambert Iwanicki (’03), Grace Tessier Weniger (’03), Sonali Aradhey, and university photographer Mike Miriello (’09) — and especially to Maya, Noah, Anish, Niranjan, Bree, Amaya and Connor for making our very early morning photo shoot a success!

 

On that hot, chaotic August day

Freshmen, take a look at your new roommates. They might become lifelong friends, and there’s also the possibility that they will change your lives forever. Read on for the heartwarming story of two random roommates with an extraordinary bond. But beware: The story of Denise Dance Waff (’00)∫ and Amanda Howard Hoban (’00) could bring you to tears….

“If there’s ANYTHING I can do…”

by Denise Dance Waff (’00)

Amanda Howard Hoban ('00) and Denise Dance Waff ('00) — once random roomates, now extraordinary friends.

Amanda Howard Hoban (’00) and Denise Dance Waff (’00) — once random roommates, now extraordinary friends.

From the moment I received my freshman housing assignment from James Madison University in 1996, I began wondering what my roommate would be like. Would we have anything in common? Would we get along? Would she even want to hang out with me?!! Fortunately, our first phone contact eased most of my fears as we got to know each other and worked out all the important logistics for dorm life: Who’s bringing the fridge? Who’s bringing the TV? By the time we met in Eagle Hall on that hot, chaotic, August day, I already knew we would be great roommates. We spent the afternoon unpacking our things and organizing our room, and then headed out to a cookout welcoming incoming freshman. By the end of the night, we had coordinated our schedules, mapped out where we’d meet for meals, and had completely planned how we’d spend our first weekend as college students. Oh yeah, we were going to get along just fine!

Over the next four years, Amanda and I did something not many randomly paired freshman roommates do — we continued to live together. From Wayland Hall to Ashby Crossing, the idea of living apart never even entered our minds. We were roommates, confidantes, partners in crime — we were best friends. I think it’s safe to say that neither of our JMU experiences would have been complete without the other.

20140816_130924After graduation in the spring of 2000, Amanda and I began our long-distance friendship, she in Northern Virginia and I in Richmond. There was no text messaging back then (man, I sound old), so we called and emailed on a weekly basis. We burned up Interstate 95 visiting each other during those early years. New jobs, apartments, birthdays. We didn’t really need a reason to celebrate if it meant we could spend a weekend together. As we settled into adulthood in the mid-2000s, we each established careers, got married, and purchased homes. We served as maid/matron of honor in each other’s weddings, planning bridal showers and bachelorette parties. Soon after, pregnancies were announced and babies were born — two boys for Amanda and one boy for me. Despite growing work and family responsibilities, we still found time to stay connected. And as with any good friendship, it was like no time had passed every time we talked.

20140707_153050 In the summer of 2010, my husband and I began contemplating having a second child. With almost two years of parenting experience behind us, we figured we were adequately equipped to give our son a sibling. Around that same time, I received devastating news. At age 32, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What I had naively believed only happened to women over age 50 had actually happened to me. After my initial shock/anger wore off, I began telling people, which was almost as hard as hearing it the first time myself. I emailed Amanda because I was not strong enough to say the words out loud, and I remember literally feeling her sadness when I read her reply. She ended her email with the statement, “All I can say is if there is anything, and I mean anything, that I (or Joe and I) can do for you, just say the word. Don’t even hesitate.” Little did she or I know how true those words would ring true in the future.

Fast forward to 2013.

With chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries behind me, I was cancer-free and ready to put this awful disease behind me. At the urging of my doctors, my husband and I had preserved our ability to have more children by freezing embryos prior to my cancer treatments. I shared with Amanda that carrying a child would be risky for me and that my doctors were not supportive of this idea. Without hesitation, Amanda offered to carry a child for me and my husband. It was the most selfless , amazing, and humbling thing anyone had ever said to me.

Now, obviously, the next part of the story is anything but simple — doctor appointments, medications, legal contracts (required by law). It has been a PROCESS, to say the least. But in March 2014, we received the BEST news ever — we were PREGNANT!

As I write this, Amanda is currently 25 weeks with our precious baby boy. I am still just as humbled now as I was when we began this journey last year, and at times, my gratitude is so overwhelming it takes my breath away. Despite her concerns over her growing size (“I feel as big as a HOUSE!”), she has never looked more beautiful to me and I have never loved her more. We have been bonded as friends for 18 years, and now we will be bonded as family for a lifetime.

And although we were randomly paired by JMU, I am certain there was nothing “random” about it.

Thanks to Denise and Amanda for sharing their amazing story. We’ll update this story — in about 15 weeks or so. Many thanks, also, to my former colleague, writer Colleen Dixon, who told us about this story.

Which one will you love?

Dr. Isaac Woo and his favorite student, his son Johnny.

Dr. Isaac Woo and his favorite student, his son Johnny.

If you’re coming to James Madison University as a freshman or transfer student next month, you probably have in mind the name of a former teacher who made a difference in your life. Maybe he inspired you. Maybe she challenged you at a moment when you needed a push. Maybe he disciplined you and in the process helped you understand the value of hard work or cooperation or integrity. Maybe she was just kind to you at a time when life was not.

Are you thinking of a name? I suspect you are.

Now, consider this:  The art and science of teaching, the kind of educational mentorship that inspires, is paramount at JMU. Here on our campus, teaching is not something professors do as a sideline while they conduct research. It is not an afterthought but a calling. Many professors come here because their primary mission as scholars is to impart knowledge and inspiration to a new generation. Many do research, of course, and JMU is very good at that as well, but commitment to teaching each student is their primary goal.

One JMU professor, Dr. Isaac Woo told me how much he loves the interaction and rapport he has with his students, how much he values the experiences he can provide for them—and in turn, how much is gained from the synergy that occurs. Growing up and going to school in his native Korea, Dr. Woo, who teaches communication studies in the College of Arts and Letters, says that he didn’t feel the same kind of engagement with his own teachers. But JMU is “very unique and engaging” in this respect, he has found. In deciding to join the JMU faculty, Woo says, “student and teacher interaction attracted me a lot. When I came here, they looked very close. They worked together.”

If you need more proof of our commitment to teaching, check out Madison magazine’s feature, Professors You Love —which, not surprisingly, is the magazine’s most popular feature for 14 years running. You’ll find the newest installment in the next edition of the magazine. Madison hits mailboxes and newsstands around campus in September and will explore changes in education and how we maintain our humanity in the midst of such change. You will also learn more about Dr. Woo and his Madison Experience.

Scholarship is not a barrier here, but it is the common ground that welcomes every student. It is a mountaintop experience replete with challenges, steep rock walls to ascend and inspiring vistas to savor—but it is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that comes with talented guides who are eager to climb alongside you. It’s your job as freshmen to find them. In fact, the most oft-repeated advice from alumni to freshman is this:  Get to know your professors!

And if you do, it’s a pretty sure bet that in four years you’ll look back over your JMU experience and click off a roster of  professors you’ve come to love.

So who will it be?

From unknown to friend

by Annamarie Frost (’13, ’14M)

Annamarie Frost ('13) (left) and her once-unknown roommate who became a friend.

Annamarie Frost (’13) (left) and her once-unknown roommate who became a friend.

So you’ve decided to attend JMU. You’ve gone to your Summer Springboard day, and your excitement about starting college is getting greater each day. Every time you walk into a store your eyes are immediately drawn to the dorm room displays, and you can’t wait to move into your dorm room. There’s only one thing missing…

You don’t know who your roommate will be!

Five years ago, I was in your same shoes. No one from my area was going to JMU, so I chose to get a random roommate assigned to me by the Office of Residence Life. I figured that this was going to be the one time in my life that I could leave my roommate fate in someone else’s hands. Plus, if the roommate pairing happened to not work out, I wouldn’t have to blame myself for choosing that person. And by living in a residence hall, I knew that I could always look to my RA for help sorting out a potential disagreement between the two of us, if needed. So I filled out the short survey about my habits and hoped that I would get a roommate who was compatible to me.

JMU%20winter-1My freshman year roommate and I were a great match from the beginning. She was from Maryland and I was from Georgia. We were both outgoing individuals who loved to stay up late but would then have trouble waking up to our early morning alarms. Her family even sent me little care packages around different holidays! We only lived together during our freshman year because I became an RA the following year. So in order to stay in communication with each other, we established our own tradition of having a weekly catch up meal at D Hall for Cheesy Thursday all the way up to our final week as undergrads at JMU. To this day, I am so glad I chose a random roommate because I had such a great experience with it and gained a friend for life.

The transition from high school to college is a big deal for everyone. Many of you will be adjusting from having your own room at home (and maybe even bathroom) to sharing those spaces with others. By living with a roommate, you have an immediate connection in your residence hall. Your roommate is an automatic buddy to join you for walks across campus to your morning classes, rides on the Shopper bus to Walmart and meals at the dining halls. You can attend sporting events or check out different JMU organizations together. Some of these activities are intimidating to do on your own, so having a roommate go with you can sometimes make it easier.

Annamarie Frost and Laura Hardiman on the last day of their year as freshmen roommates...but hardly their last day as  friends.

Annamarie Frost and Laura Hardiman on the last day of their year as freshmen roommates…but hardly their last day as
friends.

Between now and August 1st, enjoy the rest of your summer break and start shopping for those dorm essentials. (But let me recommend that you wait until your find out your roommate before making those larger purchases of the TV and mini fridge!) Before you know it, you’ll find out the name of your roommate, quickly Facebook friend them, and start getting to know the person you will share a space with from August to May.

And no matter how much time passes, this person will always have the title of roommate to you, but it is my hope that over time, they will gain the title of a friend as well.

DSC_0096ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Double Duke Annamarie Frost graduated in May 2013 with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies and minors in Elementary Education and General Music. While at JMU, she worked for the Office of Residence Life as an RA for 1 year and a hall director for 3 years. She was also very involved with Student Ambassadors, SGA, and The Madison Society. In May 2014, she earned her Master of Arts in Teaching. This fall, she’ll be a first year teacher in Loudoun County Public Schools. Annamarie will be teaching 3rd grade at Sully Elementary in Sterling, Va.

 

Where cold is hot

DSCF4829[1]UPDATE: CHECK OUT CNN EATOCRACY’S LIST OF  COOLEST NEW ICE CREAM SHOPS HERE!

If you love sweet summer treats, something to take the hot out of summer, and something scrumptious to satisfy the palate, you’ll love what Sandra Tran (’12) and Gil Welsford (’12) have cooked up in Northern Virginia —  although cooked isn’t quite the right word.

They’ve created a concoction from delicious fresh and locally grown produce and added a dose of liquid nitrogen. It’s called NiceCream — a made-to-order-while-you-wait premium version of the summer delight that usually takes hours of elbow grease and rock salt — or a trip to the store.

With their business, The NiceCream Factory, Gil and Sandra are hoping to change the way you think about desserts.

Since last fall, they’ve been doing special events and pop-ups at places like farmers market. They also do catering, parties and take-out.

This summer, they’ve opened a brand new storefront in Arlington, Va. — The Nice Cream Factory. And it appears to be catching on. Reviews on their Facebook page are almost unanimously positive.

A cool place for a hot day.

A cool place for a hot day.

These two friends and partners met at JMU, both graduates of the College of Business, and share a spirit of entrepreneurship.

As undergraduates, they each made their mark on JMU before striking out to pursue their joint entrepreneurial venture. Gil created “Club Gilty,” a non-alcoholic night club for students, and Sandra, along with fellow Duke Dan Smokin (’11) started JMUTeach, a program where students design and teach semester-long courses for their peers.

Now that Gil and Sandra have teamed up, we’ll be watching. Anything this good is likely to spread because who does not like NiceCream?!

To learn more about NiceCream, visit their website: http://www.nicecreamfactory.com And to learn more about Gil, Sandra, check out this article by Taylor Deer (’13) on the College of Business website: https://www.jmu.edu/news/cob/2013/05/10-alumni-nicecream.shtml

Better yet, if you’re in downtown Arlington — around 2831 Clarendon Blvd. — go by and try some NiceCream.
And let us know if it’s as good as it sounds….

Nicecream[1]

Gratitude and hospitality

 Hospitality in Northern Ireland

 The first education practicum in Northern Ireland for James Madison University students continues. In today’s guest blog, participants reflect on their experience of hospitality, which you will read, is exceedingly warm, generous and welcoming…..

Newry, Northern Ireland (photo from Wikipedia)

Newry, Northern Ireland (photo from Wikipedia)

This is the first time that the Practicum Experience in Northern Ireland trip has been attempted, so naturally everyone on the trip was very nervous about how we would be received.   What we have found is a community that has embraced our mission as teachers experiencing a different culture and education system. Every person involved in the planning and carrying out of this trip is eager to learn from our interactions just as much as we want to learn from them.   Our mentor teachers, principals, cooks, bus drivers, maids, and all those we interact with have been so excited to welcome us and help us find our way in this new country. Due to the overwhelming welcome we have received in Newry, we wanted to put into words how much we appreciate everyone’s kindness and emphasize those who have made a difference in our stay. We believe that the best way to do this is to put into words personal statements from participants on our trip about people who have made our trip so amazing. There are many more people we owe a huge thank you to who are not mentioned in the stories shared, so we would like to thank all these people who have made a big impact on our stay. Thank you!

Rachel Berry, ELED, Class of 2014 – I flew into Dublin a few days before the program started and stayed in a guesthouse a little bit away from O’Connell street. My friend and I had both packed pretty heavy and were definitely struggling getting our bags into the house. The guesthouse was run by a sweet older woman named Elish and her son Steven. They were both so welcoming as soon as we walked in and she wasted no time asking about who we were, where we came from, and what we were doing here. She was about to hand us her keys, then she took one look at our bags and said, “Oh absolutely not you are not going to carry your bags all the way up to the 5th floor.” She promptly turned around and grabbed a new set of keys, to the biggest room on the first floor. It was a large room with a bathtub, a queen sized bed, and a TV. The room we were supposed to have was about half the size and didn’t have a connected bathroom. We went to give her extra money for the change and she refused, telling us that it wasn’t a problem at all and she was happy to do it. The day I needed to leave, I was about to call a cab to go to my new accommodations and she grabbed my bags and said, “I’ll drive you over there myself.” I tried to give her some money for helping me out but she wouldn’t take it. She was just happy to see me safely to my new place. I’d never experienced such kindness from someone I’ve never met before. I didn’t exchange information with her, but I wish I had because I would love to keep up with her.

Ellie Burnett, English, Class of 2015 – On one of our first official school days, three of the other girls and I were talking amongst ourselves in the staff lounge. One teacher came over to us, and we all began a conversation about our thoughts on Newry so far. Soon enough, during lunch that same teacher came back with maps, a sight list, and numbers of local cab and bus numbers. We were shocked; she had just used up her planning period to give us information on her hometown. The Newry people are so proud of their town, and it’s evident from how their faces light up when we speak highly of good restaurants we’ve been to. They want to simply share their favorite parts of Newry. It’s truly touching how helpful and hospitable everyone has been.

Amber Blakovich, Music Ed, Class of 2016 – Normally after school, we ride the bus and get off right across from St. Colman’s College, where we are staying. One day last week, we had decided to get on another bus and go into town to shop around. As soon as we got on the bus, the bus driver, who was different from our normal bus driver, immediately started talking to us and asking us different questions about our experience here and continued telling us stories about his life throughout the whole bus ride to the center of town. Upon arriving, a phrase that we kept hearing from the bus driver and the locals alike was, “you are very welcome to Newry”. The phrase meant a lot to us because it helped us feel like we had found a home away from home, a place where we already felt included in the culture. The hospitality here has been incredible.

Julia Kron, Studio Art, Class of 2015 – Mr. Pat Cullen is the catering manager at St. Colman’s College and he has been so lovely to us as we stay in the Priest’s Corridor. Every morning he greets us with a smile and gives us a warm breakfast. He always checks up on us and makes sure that we have enough food in our kitchenette. Also, for two nights every week Pat cooks us a full meal in the canteen area. He sets the tables for us and individually serves us all. He is such a nice person to talk to and has some fascinating life stories to share. One afternoon, he set up a bread making workshop where he taught us how to make Irish Soda Bread and Wheaten bread. We really appreciated learning a skill of his culture and he was very happy to share it with us. It was a very nice afternoon to spend with him in his kitchen. Also, he is very interested in our experiences and wants to know how we are getting along each time he runs into us. He is so kind to us and makes us feel very welcome during our stay at St. Colman’s College. I know that we all really appreciate how much time he takes out of his day and evening for us. Thank you so much, Pat!

Sarah Simmons, ELED, Class of 2014- Josephine McGrath the reception woman at the front desk at St. Colman’s has been extremely hospitable. I have had at least a 20-minute conversation with her each day. She has always asked me about my day and if I needed anything. She has also been giving us suggestions on places to go to eat and buy things. The most hospitable moment was when I mention that I needed to find a Christmas ornament for my mom and she started calling up places asking all the staff for places to find ornaments. She has gone above and beyond to make sure my stay is enjoyable and I am going to miss our daily conversations.

Tim Thomas: Just as all of us have experienced, I have been the beneficiary of great hospitality during our visit here. The first Friday in Newry, we all boarded the bus to Carlingsford, a locally famous medieval village less than a dozen miles south of Newry. As soon as the bus pulled away from the station, the driver caught my eye in the mirror and motioned me to the front of the bus. Despite the rules not to talk to the driver and to remain behind the white line, the driver spoke to me all the way to Carlingsford, pointing out sights along the way and providing advice about our visit to the area. The same man was driving the route as we jumped on the bus to return to Newry. As he was speaking to other riders buying tickets while we boarded, I went to the back of the bus to sit with our group. When I looked up, though, there was the driver – he had come down the aisle to inquire how well we had enjoyed our visit. His overwhelming attention to the quality of our experience is just one illustration of the welcome we have received.

Jesse Humphries, ELED, Class of 2014- One of the best parts of our experience in Northern Ireland so far has been being able to travel to new towns. Translink employee Gerry D’Arcy has been overwhelmingly helpful and involved with our travels to insure we are able to travel safely and inexpensively. Translink provided us with vouchers that enable us to tour the Newry District for free. Without this opportunity, I would not have been able to see so many different places. All of the bus drivers and Translink staff have been so helpful and friendly. Whenever there is somewhere I want to go or something I want to do, they direct to me to the best line to get me there. I have been able to see so much more of the area because of Gerry and the whole Translink team.

Maggie Leonard, ELED, Class of 2014 – I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and hard work the housekeepers at St. Colmans, Denise and Jenny, have put into making us comfortable during our stay. After a long day in the classroom, we are always welcomed by Denise, Valerie, Margret, and Joanie in the afternoon delivering our laundry, freshly made beds, and them checking in on how our day was and what our plans are for the evening. One housekeeper even took home one of the girl’s Irish wool sweaters and properly cleaned it to ensure that it was returned in pristine condition. These amazing ladies are another addition to all the acts of kindness that have made our trip much less stressful then it could have been.

Kathryn McCallum, ELED, Class of 2014 – Jariath Burns, the principal of St. Paul’s, obtained free tickets for us to the local Gaelic Football match which was already sold out.   Mr. Burns was so welcoming and helpful as he explained all the rules and traditions to us confused Americans. He even arranged for us to meet the President of the Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association, Martin McAviney and take a photo on the pitch (the field, during half time). The game was such an amazing experience and we’re so lucky to have been treated so great. Mr. Burns really wanted us to experience this part of the Northern Irish culture which he personally loves and in which he has participated as a star player for County Armagh.

Emily Vaughters, ELED, Class of 2015 – I had the opportunity to talk with a woman named Dierdre Graham while I was working in my school. In the past, she had worked at a school where she had the opportunity to participate in a program where students from Northern Ireland were able to go to Maryland and Virginia. She actively sought me out so that she could introduce herself and make a connection with me. She also gave me her contact information and invited me up for tea any time. This one interaction made me feel immediately more comfortable at my school.

Danielle Gallagher, Mathematics, Class of 2015 – The first Sunday we were in Newry another girl on the trip and I went to mass at the Cathedral in town.   During the mass I noticed the Bishop looking at us strangely and then afterwards he grabbed my hand and asked who I was. After explaining that we were part of the study abroad group that is teaching in Newry he asked us to join him for tea. Bishop John McAreavey was so interested in everything we had to say and had some great stories of his own to tell. He even offered to drive us home after hearing that we were staying at Saint Colman’s College, which is a thirty minute walk from the cathedral. I am still impressed that he was able to pick our faces out of a huge crowd and make sure that he welcomed us at the end of mass.

Megan Makarowski, ELED, Class of 2014- The lunch ladies in my school, Bessbrook Primary have been so nice and welcoming to me. The entire school staff had been overwhelmingly positive to my visit and these ladies were the last of the staff that I met. I didn’t pack my lunch one day for school and didn’t buy anything on the way there; I wanted to buy the school lunch to see what it was like. Because so many of the children had left early due to Sports Day (like an American field day) they gave me lunch free of charge. When I returned my plate to them they engaged me in conversation, really wanting to know everything about my stay here in Ireland. They were so sweet and attentive and when I went to leave they said, “We will see you tomorrow at lunch!” They were excited for me to come back and eat with them again. It was awesome that they cared so much.

Dr. Frazier: I have had many instances of helpfulness and generosity from those who live and work in Newry from the faculty members and staff that Dr. Carrington and I met last spring at Newry High School to those who work here at St. Colman’s College who have gone out of their way to make us feel comfortable like Peter, the Ground’s Keeper, Pat, the Cook, and Denise and Jenny, the housekeepers, who have provided us with both stories and support. We have had support from Gerry at the bus station and from complete strangers who find our accents to be like those of “movie stars.” There are many others here as well. Richard Melaniphy, Associate Principal and Iestyn Brown, the Principal at Newry High School whose tireless dedication brought this program into being. They were the point persons to make the local arrangements with all of the participating schools and negotiated gratis transportation for us with Gerry D’Arcey and Greg Donovan from Translink. Perhaps one of the most supportive persons has been Cormac McKinney, principal at St. Colman’s who agreed to reconstruct the Priest’s Corridor to accommodate our group and provide us with meals, laundry support, and security as well. His support and that of Derrick Campbell, Comptroller at St. Colmans College have been instrumental in helping us to establish this program in Newry. The real stars of this program though are our students, whose good humor, persistence and willingness to take risks, are the unsung heroes of this experience. They have made this an “amazing experience” for all of us!

 

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