For the past three months, Bellevue schools have been pioneering an exciting new student exchange program with school children in the immeasurably less fortunate village of Auburn, located in the poverty-stricken wastelands south of Seattle.
In the program, students from Bellevue schools endure a week living with a host family in Auburn while their counterparts are granted a temporary glimpse of life outside of the rural slums.
The program is the brainchild of interim Bellevue school superintendent Karen Clark, who hopes that students’ lives will be enriched. “Just because we’re white and fabulously wealthy here in Bellevue doesn’t mean that our students should live a sheltered life,” she explained.
Bellevue students have embraced the program and are enjoying the new life experiences. “It’s really enriching to actually experience what it’s like for people who have live without even the most basic necessities of life like organic grocers and granite countertops in their homes,” said Bellevue High sophomore Sky Jamison. “Even though it was like, really hard to make it the full week, I really feel like suffering through that kind of deprivation really helped me to become like, a better person.
Students from Auburn also welcomed the temporary reprieve from the monotony of their destitute lives. “It was nice to sleep on a bed that didn’t have cold metal springs poking through holes in the sheets,” said Auburn High freshman Mike Henry. “Who knew that some people are lucky enough to live in houses that don’t have dozens of leaks in the roof?”
Of course the experimental endeavor has not been without the occasional hiccup. Some Bellevue students have been sent home after only a day or two, as they were unable to cope with the grueling pace of agricultural labor common to Auburn households. Auburn students have had troubles of their own. The experiences of indoor plumbing and electricity are totally unknown concepts in Auburn, which has led to some interesting interactions with their Bellevue host families.
The original draft of the program had students spending a full month with their host families, but the Bellevue school board deemed that plan to be too extreme. “We want to give our children valuable life experiences, not crush their souls by imprisoning them for an eternity in third-world hovels,” said school board president Peter Bentley.
At the end of the school year the Bellevue School Board will evaluate the program and decide whether the personal enrichment is worth the risk of exposing students to life-threatening foreign diseases.