Rep. Lisa P. Tomasso (D—Dist. 29, Coventry, West Greenwich) had the honor of escorting 13 Italian exchange students and their host students for a tour of the State House as part of Exeter-West Greenwich High School’s first-ever exchange program through the Tuscan American Association (TAA).
EWG art teachers Nicole Pichette and Elizabeth Lind coordinated with the TAA – a nonprofit that aims to strengthen economic and cultural ties between the United States andTuscany, Italy – to create an engaging exchange program experience for a small group of students. For two weeks this fall, the exchange students immersed themselves in American culture and the English language.
“You can’t put a price on such a wonderful program,” Representative Tomasso said. “The Italian students not only learned about the English language and our culture – they got to see how our government works, too. I applaud the art teachers at the high school for coordinating this program. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of these children. Additionally, it serves as a great supplement to their education, transcending traditional coursework. It’s experiential learning in science, world history, politics, foreign language and life.”
At the very end of the two-week program, Italian students kept journals written in English and presented them to their host families at a farewell dinner. Students had the opportunity to visit the Cliff Walk and Elms mansion in Newport, the Boston Museum of Science, Providence’s Rhode Island School of Design, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum inConnecticut, Exeter’s Fisherville Brook Wildlife Refuge and the Rhode Island State House during their stay.
Representative Tomasso said she was surprised to discover that the exchange students had never visited their own house of government. Many were excited by the mock session they held in the House Chamber, she said.
“It was amazing to see these students so engaged and eager to participate in the debate,” she said. “This was new to them. But even the students who were initially hesitant found their voice in the chamber. None of the students had ever visited their own capitol, so I’m not sure if they really knew what to expect. I think it was a fun learning experience for all of them, Italian and American students alike.”
The second half of the program will take place during two weeks in April 2013, when the 13 host students from EWG will travel to Italy and live with host families. They will attend Liceo Scientifico Piero Gobetti, a science high school in Bagno a Ripoli, Florence. American students studying art history at EWG will experience first-hand what they studied inside the classroom and create artwork based on their experience overseas.