Teens from different areas unite during School Swap


HOWELL- In an effort to promote inclusion, respect and tolerance, and to knock down stereotypes, students from Howell High School and Franklin High School recently participated in the American Conference on Diversity (ACD) School Swap.

The ACD Jersey Shore Chapter sponsored the event, which was held at Howell High School on Feb. 5.Agroup of about 20 students from Franklin High School in Somerset County were paired with 20 Howell students with the idea of experiencing a day in each other’s shoes.

According to information provided by the Freehold Regional High School District, “The goal of School Swap is to help students gain an understanding of students in different learning environments through firsthand experience. By living the similarities and differences of another’s high school experiences, students can engage in meaningful dialogues about why various differences in their experiences exist.”

Each visiting student from Franklin was paired with a host student from Howell and remained with that person for the day, attending classes and participating in activities.

According to Elizabeth Kasimis, Lead for Diversity adviser, as soon as the students met each other “they mingled right away.As soon as they saw each other, they started talking.”

During a morning icebreaker the students shared their initial thoughts and expectations about the School Swap.

According to Kasimis, it was discovered during that time that some of the Franklin students thought the Howell students were going to be “stuck up and preppy,” but after about 10 minutes the stereotypes the students may have had about each other had disappeared.

Kasimis said some of the teenagers found out they were more alike than different.

“This was very exciting to see. I just wish we could do that with other places in the world, too, and see that we all have common goals. Let’s bring out the best in each other and that’s really what this was about for us,” Kasimis said.

According to Howell senior Ian Harvey, 17, who was paired with Franklin sophomore Javonni Flewellen, 15, “I was optimistic, hoping whoever I got would be open and willing to learn new stuff and have a good time here at Howell. So far it has been a good learning experience because you get to learn a little bit more about what goes on outside of Howell.”

Javonni shared Ian’s sentiments. According to her, there were stereotypes and questions about student life at Howell. However, Javonni said, “I was glad to actually come here and see what it was like for myself, rather than taking what other people had to say about it. It has been so much fun.”

“The American Conference on Diversity educates and empowers leaders and promotes inclusion and respect. The organization spearheads programs and initiatives that address issues unique to New Jersey. These include its Youth Leadership Institute, Center for Workplace Diversity, Educator’s Institute and cultural competency training for healthcare providers,” according to information provided in a press release.

Diane Schwartz, president and CEO of ACD said, “While high school students throughout the state may share many similarities, their experiences often depend on the size of their high school, the geographic location – whether urban, suburban or rural – the socioeconomic makeup and diversity of the student body and the diversity of the faculty and staff.”

ACD has matched schools from demographically different areas throughout the state for its School Swap program.Agroup of Howell students are scheduled to experience life at Franklin High School on April 8.