Scott High School senior Tianna Dandridge plays kickball with students from Clyde High School in a gym class during a cultural exchange program at the Sandusky County school.
CLYDE, Ohio - Tauryeus Nettles couldn't help but notice how quiet things were at Clyde High School yesterday.
Kevin Powell was thinking about how "loose" things were the day before at Toledo's Scott High School.
The two students live just 40 miles apart, but as they found out on visits to each other's school this week, their communities are worlds apart.
"It's more calm here. It's not all wild and crazy like it is at Scott," Tauryeus, a Scott senior, said. "Here, people pay attention to the teachers."
When the bell rang, kids were in their classrooms, he said, unlike at his school, where people are always in the halls.
Kevin said that while he sat in on classes at Scott, he was surprised to see the teachers dressed so casually. One even answered her cell phone during class, something he's never seen his teachers at Clyde do.
The opportunity to trade places for a day was what Clyde psychology teacher Holly Rogers described as a cultural exchange program for the rural and urban students, albeit on a local level.
"I wanted to expose my kids to a different culture," she said. "We had been talking about racism and prejudice in class. Clyde is so white, middle class that we don't really get to interact with the real world."
All but a handful of Clyde's 700 or so students are white, while more than 95 percent of Scott's student body is black.
Taryn Powell, a junior at Clyde, said Scott was different from her flat-roofed, 1960s-era high school in many ways.
"Scott looked like a castle. Ours looks like a prison," she said. "They have wide hallways and people are very accepting. They were more talkative."
Whitney Brown, a senior at Scott, admitted she'd never heard of Clyde, much less been there.
"I probably passed it on the way to Cedar Point, but I've never heard of it," Tauryeus said.
"Is this on the way to Cedar Point?" Whitney asked.
"It's east," he replied.
Mitch Balonek, an English teacher at Scott, said he has wanted to put together this kind of field trip for several years and worked with a friend, Tom Mathers, a sociology teacher at Clyde, to make it happen this year.
"In 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education said we shouldn't segregate our schools and here we are 50 years later and we're still segregated. Forty-two years after Martin Luther King said, 'I have a dream,' we're still living in two societies," Mr. Balonek said. "I think for both our students at Scott and the students at Clyde, this is an opportunity to meet the quote-unquote other."
What most of the kids seemed to be finding out was that they were a lot alike.
"That's what people don't understand," said Taryn Powell. "We're all teenagers. We all have teenage issues."
Mr. Balonek, who led a group discussion in the Clyde auditorium after the kids shared a lunch of pizza and pop, challenged the students from both schools to take what they learned about the "other" students and share it with their classmates.
"This is an opportunity to reach out and be ambassadors," he said. "Last year, my students wrote letters to the tsunami victims in India. The year before, they wrote letters to Iraqi students. This is a little closer to home, yet they're still miles apart in many ways."
Contact Jennifer Feehan
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