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The Sister School Initiative

As Suzanne Fox stood before a delegation of dozens of Chinese and New England educators in the McKernan Center on the wintery afternoon in January, she borrowed a line from one of the wisest minds in Chinese history: “A journey of a ten thousand miles begins with a single step.”

It was a nod to the philosopher and sage Laozi and the first step in building meaningful new connections across the globe in a new program known as The New England-Zhejiang Sister School Initiative. This event saw 12 Chinese principals and government officials from Jinhua, a city of five million people in Zhejiang Province, to travel to Maine to meet with their New England counterparts. The task? Forge bonds and sister-school relationships.

The day had begun two hours earlier as the Chinese educators traveled from Boston to Maine, stopping off for a tour of Kennebunk High School. Then came the main event at the McKernan Center, an historic house overlooking glistening Casco Bay. They were welcomed by South Portland Mayor, Tom Blake and President of Southern Maine Community College, Ron Cantor—as well as educators from nearly a dozen New England schools.  The New England participants included a group of principals from elementary, middle and high schools from an array of private, public and charter schools. The Maine group included Van Buren and Millinocket in the North and Brunswick, Yarmouth and Baxter Academy in the Portland area. Also attending were schools from Connecticut and Vermont.  

After the welcome speeches, each school was matched with its sister school partner at tables overlooking the stunning views of Casco Bay, and with translators at hand, they launched deep into earnest conversations. “This was an opportunity for them to learn about one another,” explained Suzanne Fox. “This is what the whole day was about, laying the foundations of what we hope will be the beginning of long-term relationships.”

The event closed with a formal signing ceremony as school heads were called up to exchange gifts and sign their relationships into reality. It was a day of new beginnings, of setting out on a very 21-st century journey for New England schools—to create cross-cultural connections with partners in China and open pathways for new forms of student exchange. From here, many Chinese students will travel to New England this summer for short-term summer programs in the blissfully clean air.  Students in the US will also get to travel to one of China’s most interesting and historic provinces.

From Jinhua to Maine

January marks the launch of some exciting new projects at Fox Intercultural headquarters in Portland. On Friday, January 18th, we will be welcoming a delegation of 12 educators from the Chinese Province of Zhejiang. The principals are traveling to Maine in order to meet their sister schools from across New England.

It is part of our Sister School Initiative and offers a wonderful chance to American schools. In-person meetings are essential to relationship building in China, so to meet in the setting of South Portland is a rare opportunity.

The educators all hail from the Chinese city of Jinhua. Located a five-hour train ride southwest of Shanghai, it is a prefecture-level city with a population of 5.3 million. Jinhua has a thriving economy dominated by manufacturing and processing. But it’s not all about industry.   

Just fifteen kilometers outside of the city is the Double Dragon Scenic Area, an area renowned for its Buddhist temples, Daoist culture and mountain forests. It’s a view of classic Chinese culture but you’ll also find a thoroughly cutting-edge display in the center of the city. The Jinhua Architecture Park is a huge project by infamous artist and architect Ai Weiwei. Following the banks of a river winding through the city, stand 17 pavilions designed by architects from around the world. The artist’s father the poet and novelist Ai Qing was born here.  

With more than a dozen schools signing relationships this month, in the coming year students from Jinhua will be traveling to New England for innovative summer programs.

Cross-Cultural Competency in Depth

The interconnectedness of today’s world requires a greater sense of cross-cultural competency.  With the longest continuous history of any country, and complex economic, political, and social issues, a comprehensive understanding of China can provide tremendous opportunities.

At Fox Intercultural Consulting Services, we help clients understand the cultural differences between China and America, and, more importantly, identify and build on the similarities bridging Chinese and American cultures – a proven strategy for success.

New! Quarterly Roundtables

We organize quarterly networking roundtables in Portland, Maine. These events are open to a wide audience of educators, business leaders and people across the spectrum to provide a forum to learn about current topics in Chinese life, business, politics and society.   

We connect American and Chinese educational institutions to add global dimensions to their student bodies and inspire cross-cultural awareness.

With a wealth of experience in Sino-American educational exchange, we are known for our extensive networks, cross-cultural expertise and high-quality programming. We work with Universities, High Schools and Middle Schools from California to Maine, and from Sichuan to Shanghai. READ MORE...

We’ve been building Sino-American connections for two decades.

Our story began in the 1980s when, in the wake of Deng Xiaoping’s new ‘Open Door Policy’, Suzanne Fox was among the first wave of American exchange students to travel to China. Read more…

Building sister school relationships between New England and China is the very bedrock of the work we do.

We take pride in developing thoughtful and long-lasting partnerships that pair Chinese and American schools and colleges that share common interests. Read more…

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Public schools like Millinocket's buoy enrollment by joining the hunt for foreign students' tuition and diversity

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When Ken Smith took over as superintendent of the Millinocket School Department in July 2010, he inherited a tough challenge: Revenue was falling as enrollment continued to shrink. READ MORE.

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