LYNDON CENTER -- Sixteen students enrolled in the Lyndon Institute/Shaoxing Number One High School Branch dual-high-school program were graduated on June 21 in a ceremony that blended Eastern and Western traditions. Students and faculty wore traditional Western "mortarboard" caps, for example, with academic robes adorned with Chinese embroidery and ornate knotted fasteners.
Music for the program included the Chinese national anthem and, in a move that surprised and delighted American faculty, the theme from Rawhide, chosen as a typically "Western" composition. The ceremony including speeches by the American and Chinese headmasters, a student representative, a parent representative, and American teacher and Chinese teachers; the presentation of awards, certificates, and diplomas; and a recitation of poetry in both Chinese and English.
On June 9, Lyndon Institute Headmaster Rick Hilton spoke to 131 Lyndon Institute graduates in Lyndon Center, all of whom had earned their LI diplomas in a record-setting year. In Shaoxing he spoke in English, pausing for a translator to repeat his words in Chinese for the benefit of parents and others who might not speak English. He told the audience of several hundred, "Cooperation between the People's Republic of China and the United States of America is vitally important to the future of our world. Our countries are leaders, and these young men and women are now better prepared to take their place as leaders in the next generation's businesses and professions." He also praised Shaoxing Headmaster Jin's "courage and dedication in making this dream a reality," calling him "a true colleague, what we call in English a 'kindred spirit.'"
The graduating students had completed both Chinese and American high-school programs since enrolling as 10th-graders in the 2010-2011 academic year. Housed in a dedicated wing of the 3,500-student Shaoxing school, the students have been taught by Chinese teachers and by American teachers and advisors selected by Lyndon Institute but paid by the Shaoxing school. Unlike some international programs in China, the LI program has seen continuity among its faculty. Several, including St. Johnsbury Academy Alumnus Brendan Mold, have actually made the transition from the Shaoxing program to LI's Vermont campus.
"Ours was one of the first two high schools permitted to offer a true American high-school program in China along with the Chinese program," explained Hilton. "It makes sense for our school as we prepare all of our students for success in a necessarily global economy. We have not had to invest any capital, just time and talent, and the rewards are great -- academically and financially. In effect, we are 'exporting' education from Vermont to China."
The Shaoxing program near Shanghai opened in 2010, followed by a similar program in Hefei, between Beijing and Shanghai, this year and a new program that begins in the fall on the newly constructed campus of a high school in Fuzhou on the southern coast of China.
Students in all three programs come to Lyndon Institute in the summer to study English language and American history, taking time during their visit to see colleges in the region and to tour major American cities.
"Our assistant headmaster, Mr. Norwood deserves great credit for leading this program to success," said Hilton. "His rapport with Chinese students and parents is excellent, and his credibility as an American academic leader among his Chinese counterparts is strong."
All 16 graduates of the Lyndon Institute/Shaoxing program will attend American colleges and universities, including: University of California at San Diego, Case Western Reserve University, Drexel University, George Washington University, Hobart and William Smith colleges, University of Oregon, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, St. John's University, Temple University, University of Washington, and Wesleyan.
With three campuses in China cooperating with Lyndon Institute, managing the education of students overseas requires special attention, explained Hilton. "Assistant Headmasters Adam Norwood and Rob Heath both have experience working with our partners in China, and no fewer than eight other faculty and staff have taught at or at least toured our locations in China. Our new Dean of Faculty, Michelle Ralston, will help us to develop and guide our teachers in China. Fortunately our contracts with the Chinese schools include travel expenses, so the results for Lyndon Institute are almost entirely positive -- if you do not mind the 15-hour flight to Shanghai."
According to Hilton, local students benefit from LI's programs in China in several ways.
"Our programs in China introduce our local students and community to the global economy of the future. Our Chinese partners have now offered free tuition, room, and board to American students who might want to experience China. Our teacher exchanges are making our faculty in Lyndon Center experts in international education and in preparing all students -- Vermonters as well as others -- to succeed in international business. Now that Lyndon Institute is emerging as the leading American school in China -- with three partner campuses this year and six next year -- the possibilities for exchanges, partnerships, and other ventures that benefit our students in Vermont as well as China are limitless."
"Our on-campus boarding program and our overseas programs help to pay for our academic, athletic and arts programs. In fact, every student on our campus receives a 'scholarship' if you will, from revenues generated by boarding, special programs and endowment income."
"After all, the Premier of the People's Republic of China, Li Keqiang, is an alumnus of one of our partner schools. As our local students prepare to succeed in providing products and services to 1,500,000,000 consumers in the Chinese market, our programs here and in China give them a distinct advantage."
"Finally, our efforts to build mutual respect and understanding between young citizens of the world's two greatest powers may have profound benefits for our children and our children's children. We believe that our programs and those that follow can build a stronger foundation for world peace and prosperity in the future."