Poly Launches Global Studies and Language Scholars Programs

Lucas Basham '24

by Lucas Basham ’24, Breaking News Editor for The Polygon

Liz Mansfield

Three Poly seniors will travel abroad this May as part of the inaugural edition of the Global Studies Language Scholars program. The program, which was announced in an email to Grade 12 families from World Languages Department Chair Liz Mansfield and History teacher Tim Shea in December, would send four seniors at the highest level of their language on a fully funded two-three week trip to either France, Spain, Costa Rica, or Singapore. Students will live with a host family, take at least four hours of language classes daily, and complete their Senior Capstone project research on a topic in the target language.

Ella Lille Yerington '24
Ella Lille Yerington ’24

“It’s not like language in a silo,” said Mansfield. “It’s language for life, for the purpose of learning about other cultures…” Ella Lille Yerington ’24, who is traveling to France, echoed that sentiment saying, “The program is such an incredible opportunity and I’m looking forward to improving my French skills while exploring the city and researching my topic. Being in France will definitely put my French conversational skills to the test, and I think it will be interesting to see how well seven years of language classes have prepared me.” Adam Ellozy ’24 will also be studying in Paris in May.

Currently, Poly has run curricular travel trips where students travel with faculty to Italy, Mexico, and France, among other places. In the past, Poly has had exchange programs, including an exchange program in Argentina that lasted from 1996 to 2013, which ended because it was too much extra work for a single teacher. (Poly didn’t use a travel company then; the teacher booked flights, organized documents, and communicated with the Argentines. As of this year, Shea is also Poly’s official travel coordinator, and gets compensated extra for that additional work. He works on budgeting and communication with travel companies.)

Photo via Education First

This time around, seniors will travel through Education First: Languages Abroad, a company with ‘language campuses’ all over the world with the infrastructure for the kind of experience Mansfield was looking for. “I wanted the ability to make everything easier [than in the past]. I called Education First up and I told them what I wanted, and they said, ‘no problem’.”

“I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Global Studies Language Scholars program,” said Yerington, “because I have been dreaming of returning to Paris. My proposal is about the recent immigration bill passed by Macron and its effects on current and prospective immigrants in France. Additionally, I will be researching how this bill connects to France’s long history with immigration and racial tensions.”

Ben Piquet '24
Ben Piquet ’24

Ben Piquet ’24, who has always wanted to study abroad, will be heading to Barcelona and immersing himself in Spanish culture. “My capstone is on FIFA corruption,” he said. “Everyone I’ve talked to said it’s a really great city and it’s one of the centers for world [soccer]…” The idea that Poly is piloting this program has also impressed him. “I feel like the World Language department is reaching new levels… It’s great that the school offers to fly out a student for three weeks to study and research independently; it’s definitely not something that a high school would typically do.” The idea of living with a host family is intriguing to Piquet. “I’ve never had the experience of living with a host family, so that will be great.” He added, “Studying four hours of Spanish every day might be challenging.”

Next year, the programs will identify themselves more separate from one another. The Global Studies program, headed by Shea, will be a portfolio- based program. It aims to direct students’ studies in a specific direction throughout high school: if given the freedom by their teachers, a student’s projects, essays, and other assignments through Grades 10 to 12 will be centered around a specific topic within the realm of global studies. Students will also select their courses based on their area of study.

Tim Shea

Shea hopes that by the end of Grade 9, students begin to think about their portfolio of work. Then, “by the end of the 10th grade year, students will submit a preliminary portfolio in which they say, ‘okay, I did this research paper in an elective history class in the spring of my 10th grade year. I’ve also done a service learning team, and in my Spanish class, I’ve been exploring this issue,'” said Shea. “Let’s say they’re thinking about immigration, and they’re very interested in that. We will advise them at the end of the 10th grade year to start to configure their projects in their classes around projects that have to do with immigration.”

As a senior, the student will present their capstone project based on the portfolio they’ve developed over three years.

The Language Scholars program is the next and last step in the Global Studies program. “These are the kids who not only are involved in the Global Studies program, but who want to perfect their language skills, who are the top language scholars,” said Mansfield. “[The Language Scholars program] is the pinnacle of our Global Studies program. Students are going to be the ones who go out in the world, do research, study language, and then come back and present,” said Shea.

“I don’t want it to be something where it’s an extra class, where you have to have to take this class, or you have to take that class. I want it to be more like you’re interested in something…and you’re thinking about how you can learn more about that particular topic in class,” added Shea.

The programs come at a time where New York City is receiving an influx of migrants, two major wars are happening in the world, and international power dynamics are shifting. “It doesn’t feel right to keep ourselves limited in the city, in the United States,” said Shea. “If we’re looking at measures to mitigate climate change on the coastline here in New York, we could also be interested in solutions that are being created in other places around the world, in societies, in cultures, in histories of places around the world that may also be experiencing that same issue.”

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