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Otter Valley to accept students from China

BRANDON — After years of working on cultural exchange with China, Otter Valley Union High School Principal Jim Avery ushered in an era of official partnership with the Vermont International Academy this past Tuesday.
Avery announced a formal agreement with VIA in Shanghai under which OV will accept students on a yearly basis from that Chinese city.
The partnership will allow up to 10 Chinese students to attend Otter Valley each year as ninth-grade students after they finish their own ninth-grade year in Shanghai. They will be tuition-paying students at OV and host families will be paid a monthly stipend through VIA.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to not only expand cultural awareness with visiting students, but to also gain tuition students,” Avery said in an interview.
In return, the VIA partnership will allow OV students to travel to Shanghai in a cultural education exchange.
“It’s a two-way street,” Avery said. “It could be for a semester, a year, two years, we are still negotiating the terms.”
The partnership was celebrated with a ceremony at OV on Tuesday afternoon in the auditorium featuring VIA Executive Director ZJ Chen and James Cross, president of VIA and a professor at Champlain College in Burlington. Avery, Rutland Northeast Superintendent Jeanne Collins and members of the RNeSU and Otter Valley Unified Union School Boards were also on hand.
Avery described it as “a ceremonial event solidifying our relationship.”
Vermont International Academy is an international, multi-campus, college-preparatory school in grades 10-12 with campuses located in Shanghai, China. The curriculum and academic experiences are designed to ensure that international students are well prepared for American higher education. It is an English-language school and features English-speaking faculty, which Avery said will make it easier and less stressful for OV students to study Mandarin.
“Our kids’ will have a successful experience based on that,” he said. “The Chinese culture is so different, and the VIA program allows a greater percentage of our kids to have a successful experience.”
Since 2003, OV has been involved in programs with China. Most recently Otter Valley has worked in collaboration with Confucius Institute. Through this relationship OVUHS has been able offer a Mandarin Chinese language program and has maintained an ongoing relationship with Chinese educators.
Avery said Harry Chaucer at Castleton State University originally wrote the curriculum for VIA after being approached by Cross.
“Being a small state, Cross wanted to connect Vermont high school kids with the VIA,” Avery said. “He spoke with Chaucer, who was aware of OV’s connection with Chinese culture over the years.”
Avery said Cross had been focusing on Chittenden County schools until Chaucer asked him to contact OV. Superintendent Collins, the former superintendent of the Burlington School District, was also aware of VIA through her Chittenden County ties.
“Jeanne has been involved in this conversation from the very beginning,” Avery said. “I had been thinking about and looking at different ways we could do this in China, but not all programs can provide the in-country support that the VIA can.”
Avery said OV is currently beginning the long process of applying for and receiving a federal F1 visa through the Department of Homeland Security in order to host the Chinese students.
If all goes accordingly, he said the first group of Chinese students could arrive on the OV campus in January 2019.

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