“At first you only think it’s cool because it’s teens from another country and their culture is very different from yours but the Friends Forever mission is much bigger than that. I knew that this was a program that I wanted to stay involved with and that I felt like I could make a difference with,” said Alex Szymanski (‘17), who helped organize the Friends Forever visit.
Ten students from Northern Ireland visited Oyster River High School on November 3rd. These students are a part of an organization called Friends Forever. The organization brings teenagers from an area of conflict together to spend a year focusing on a specific issue. The students spend some time getting to know each other and fundraising to come over to the United States. Once they are in the U.S. they attend peace seminars, visit schools, and participate in community service. They bring what they have learned about education and peace back home to create a large community service project.
It’s all about bringing people, like teenagers, from different communities over to America for an intense two weeks where they grow as a team and develop skills, that sort of stuff, so that they can bring that back [to Northern Ireland]. Sort of projects to bring peace,
said Michal, a student from Northern Ireland.
During the day the students went to a U.S. History class where they learned about US politics and were given the opportunity to share information about Northern Irish politics. Justin, another student from Northern Ireland said, “It’s been interesting. we’ve learned a lot about being an American and what the American culture is like.”
The students then were given a tour of the ORHS, visited a few classes, and attended the political rally put on by the sophomore class. Five students from ORHS were picked to be ambassadors and lead the students around. Among these ambassadors were Szymanski (‘17), Caroline Wilson (‘17), Troy LaPolice (‘17), Skylar Bagdon (‘17), and Tom Jeffery (‘17). Szymanski noted, “We weren’t the first school they visited, but they claimed they thought we were their favorite. I think they learned that we value education and that education can be fun and exciting.”
None of the students had been to America before. They weren’t exactly sure what to expect coming to the United States. Justin noted, “everyone is more open minded here compared to in our country.”
Szymanski and the other ambassadors enjoyed the time that they got to spend with the students. Szymanski stated, “I liked answering their questions and getting to know the students. They were a great group of kids and they were really engaging and excited to be there. I plan to be involved with then in the future and am applying for an internship this summer.”
Written by Libby Nichols