As it turns out, traveling the world may not be as difficult or expensive as we thought. In fact, students at Concord Christian School are able to meet people from all over the world from the comfort of their classrooms.
Founded in 1996, Concord Christian School is a Christ-centered institution serving children from birth through high school graduation. Boasting small classroom sizes (with an average teacher-to-student ratio of 17 to 1) and a family feel, Concord maintains rigorous academic standards and a biblically integrated curriculum rooted in Kingdom Education. I have firsthand experience of how great it is to be a Concord Lion because I am both a teacher in the high school and the parent of two children enrolled in the elementary school.
One of the most unique aspects of CCS is its flourishing international program. Since 2014, the international program has provided long-term hosting placements for 86 middle and high school students from 13 different countries. Students from all over the globe apply to enroll in our school for one semester, academic year, or longer. They live with a host family from our school, and they take standard classes alongside our native students. The international students in the program get a real taste of American culture, and our students and families get to learn about what life is like across the globe. It’s a win-win for all involved!
My family has hosted international students for short-term visits in the past, and it was an incredible experience that we can’t wait to participate in again. While hosting some middle-school Chinese students for a few weeks, our family was temporarily immersed in Chinese culture. We watched Chinese movies, ate a lot of really good Chinese food together, and got out the map (more than once) to discuss different places we’d been and still wanted to go.
We also had the opportunity to share aspects of Tennessee culture with the students and show them why we love calling this place home. My children learned to speak some Mandarin phrases and became attached to their new “brothers” from the other side of the world. There were definitely tears shed when it was time for our friends to travel back home!
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, our international program is going strong. There are many events and activities that the director of the program, Mackenzie Snider, has coordinated so that the entire school community gets to experience a bit of world travel from the comfort of East Tennessee. Every spring, our school hosts an International Festival. Students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade get to experience the festival and take a “tour of the world,” visiting different booths to play games, eat food, and learn more about a variety of cultures. The international students also feel a sense of pride in having the opportunity to showcase and teach their classmates about their countries of origin.
During the fall semester of this school year, Concord was the short-term host to several high school Guatemalan students. While the students were here, they collaborated with classrooms across campus, helping our students in Spanish class hone their conversational skills and giving presentations to elementary school students. According to one AP Spanish high school student, “Working with and building relationships with the international students was helpful to our class in expanding our Spanish communication skills and ensuring that the Guatemalan students felt welcomed at our school.” Another student said, “I’ve loved getting to know the international students in our school. It has shown me how God has created all equal in His image, and how I’m not so different from people my age in other countries.”
Concord doesn’t limit its international involvement to simply hosting students on our campus here in Knoxville. We have a sister school located in Seoul, South Korea. Every year, Concord welcomes students from this school, and their teachers have visited Concord several times to receive training from Concord’s faculty and staff. Our school also sends a group of Concord representatives to South Korea each year to help the school with its annual English camp. Past groups have included administrators, teachers, and Concord students. We’re hopeful that as travel becomes less restricted in the future, our school will have more opportunities to send students on international trips to experience immersion in other cultures and learn through that invaluable experience.
While Concord Christian School has many athletic and academic accolades to be proud of, our international program and school-wide promotion of cultural diversity remain high priorities and help to differentiate our school in impactful ways. Concord takes the biblical Great Commission seriously, and it continues to have a lasting impact on our school culture and our students’ lives.
At CCS, our school’s mission is “Inspiring students to follow Jesus by equipping them to serve, lead, and transform their world.”