By Jennifer Oviedo, University Academy Charter High School, Jersey City, NJ
Twenty-two students rode the bus, wondering where we were going to end up. None could create a clear picture of “Glen Ridge” in their head. Finally, the bus pulled up in front of a big, beautiful school with a garden of yellow and red flowers, the smell of fresh grass and sprinklers on each side. As we got off the bus, everyone whispered under their breath about how the Glen Ridge students would look at us during our visit for school swap.
In a school swap, students from one school go to the other school and walk in the shoes of one of its students, going to classes like any other day. The visiting student learns the differences in the environment of the other school, as well as the different races and cultures in the school, and then acts as a host when students from the other school come to visit.
“The school swap is created to break down stereotypes,” history teacher Hans Winberg said. “Experiencing the school swap shows the invalid stereotypes [students] might of have of one another.”
When we entered the school, uniformed in green and khaki, we were immediately surrounded by students who didn’t know anything about us passing by in the busy hallway.
Each of us spent the day with a pair of Glen Ridge students going to classes and talking about our schools. My partner Catherine Rosen singled out the variety of clubs and classes that they had. She said she liked that her school had so many clubs because it gives her many opportunities that she can explore and put down as experience on her college application.
Classes were filled with students sitting up straight with notebooks and pencils out, ready to work and not having side conversations.
“The discipline of Glen Ridge is way different than UACHS,” junior Cellestine Mabeya said. “Glen Ridge students are very tense and strict about their education. School time for them means school work, nothing else.”
During the wrap-up discussion, some Glen Ridge students made comments about how hard their school was on education, and wondered if it was the same for us. Students were eager to see how UACHS was, and what the differences were between the two schools.
Twenty-two Glen Ridge students spent May 22 at UACHS, starting the day in the multipurpose room. We immediately went looking for our pairs, seeing some new faces, as well as familiar ones.
To get started on our day, we played a called “speed dating” to help us get to know and refresh our memories of each other.
After attending morning classes with our pairs, all participants met up sixth period for a pizza lunch in Winberg’s classroom. As everyone finished eating, senior Kezia Harley started playing her guitar and singing at the front of the room. Then junior Steven Velez walked into the classroom and started beatboxing and singing all at once.
Velez was followed by Glen Ridge senior Catherine Geller singing “No One” by Alicia Keys, accompanied by UACHS history teacher Joseph Timpanaro, with everyone joining in.
After his visit to UACHS, Glen Ridge student Mike Overmyer agreed that the school swap was effective and that “it showed how other schools worked and it was effective in getting rid of stereotypes.”
UACHS senior Kevin Sanchez said he “learned not to be so judgmental.”
At the end of Glen Ridge’s visit, assistant dean Michele Bruce asked UACHS students what we need that Glen Ridge has, and what UACHS has that Glen Ridge needs.
Our students answered that our school has a more friend-to-friend relationship between students and teachers, while Glen Ridge is strictly teacher and student relationship.
“We have a warmer and personal relationship with students,” Winberg said.
Glen Ridge answered that UACHS needs more facilities, such as sports fields, gyms and a library.