Students and faculty in the German-American Partnership Program (GAPP) are pictured with DISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez.
Donna North High School provides students an opportunity to broaden their cultural knowledge and gain the skills necessary to be competitive in a rapidly changing world.
One way the campus is accomplishing this is by participating in the German-American Partnership Program (GAPP), a foreign exchange program that links an American with a German high school over an extended period of several years. This school year, DNHS invited 12 students and two teachers from Ferdinand-von-Miller-Realschule, a 5-10 grade campus in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany.
To celebrate their arrival, DNHS recently hosted a ceremony to officially welcome and introduce the group to the DNHS community. Among the special guests was 1976 Donna High School graduate and U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez. Judge Alvarez expressed her gratitude to the students from both schools and the importance of promoting international good will.
“You are in many respects ambassadors of your home country and our students here are ambassadors of our home country,” Judge Alvarez said. “So, you have taken that step to engage in building international good will and developing good relationships. It is impossible these days to go forth in our society without having news infiltrating us about things going on daily in the world. It’s only when we build these relationships on a very local level that I think we will flourish in an international level.”
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez addresses students and faculty in the German-American Partnership Program (GAPP)
Andres Strassinger is head of the German student exchange program. He said his group prepared for a two-week stay in Donna that would involve sitting in on classes at DNHS and tours of local and state attractions in Austin, San Antonio, Fredericksburg and South Padre Island. “Americans and Germans have been friends for a long time now and it’s important for that to still be celebrated.” Strassinger said. “You hear it all over the news. Everything is happening in a global scale. Conflicts are all over the world. So, our two nations that have always been working together must continue to maintain that good relationship.”
DNHS student exchange coordinator Mario Ruiz said this is the school’s third year participating in the GAPP. “It opens up an opportunity for our students to see a different type of culture,” Ruiz said. “A lot of times we want our kids to appreciate our own culture but in order for them to appreciate it, they have to learn about another culture and see it and then realize ‘oh wow, we really do have some beautiful things’. I really like the German program because the students can have discussions about dance like polkas or music like Tejano and talk about their association with German and Czech settlers.”
German 9th grader Felix Netsch was excited to participate in the program. “I think it’s nice to see how people in other countries live. I like to get to know new cultures and see how the world is bigger out there than what there is in Germany. The schools here are bigger and totally different.”
DNHS Student Body President Jonathan Martinez appreciated this unique opportunity to learn about Germany and share his way of life in the Valley. “I think it’s great to be able to share my Hispanic culture, what I do on a day to day basis and the type of foods I eat. I’m also curious what they think about how our schools operate. In Germany, students graduate after their sophomore year. Here, it’s after 12th grade.”
The German natives stayed with host families in Donna during their stay. Next year, the same concept will be applied in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany where 12 DNHS students will visit, site-see and attend classes at the local school.
Martinez expects quite an adventure. “They normally don’t drive cars because gas is expensive. They travel by train or bus. Classes are held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the climate is different, much cooler than ours. It’s going to be different to adapt, but I’m excited about learning the culture and the language. We’ve been practicing vocabulary words so we can understand a little of their language when we’re there.”