The Anatomy of a Brilliant Exchange

By Sally Jarvis

Kelvinside Academy student Sarah Wright left her native Scotland to volunteer in the Lower School, whetting her appetite to practice medicine (and getting her fill of wrestling)

When Sarah Wright was young, she was seriously ill and she remembers the doctor sitting with her and her parents. The doctor asked, “How does Sarah feel?” And Sarah was sitting right there.

“Did the doctor think that a child doesn’t know that something is wrong? Did she think a child can’t talk?” Sarah asked. Thus began her quest to become a doctor who would talk to children. Last September, Sarah, a student at Kelvinside Academy in Scotland, emailed Head of School Steve Lisk with a request. She wanted to spend a week as a volunteer in the Lower School because she wants to be a pediatrician. Her school has a required “work experience” week in January in which students volunteer in the field of their choice.

Sarah had applied to children’s hospitals in Glasgow, London and the United States, but she was three months short of turning 16, the required age. Sarah then thought about the LCDS students who had visited Kelvinside Academy last year. Thus the email to Steve Lisk.

She was thrilled when Country Day accepted. Her role would be to shadow first grade teachers Carrie Haggerty and Liz Peters, helping wherever needed. She said she arrived “slightly worried,” although she had been to America twice before. Her father, a senior advisor for Oracle, travels widely. “I have been basically round the world with Dad,” she said.   She is accustomed to different cultures but this was the first time she would be part of an American school. She didn’t know what to expect.  Would she be regarded as a “stupid Scottish person who won’t know anything and be asked, ‘Why did you come here?’”

Sarah needn’t have worried. Lisk said, “Her presence and level of engagement simply exceeded all of our expectations.”

As for Sarah’s expectations, she found “a welcoming, open atmosphere in the school. The teachers were so friendly; they took me out to dinner.”

And the students were friendly enough to bring Sarah along to gym, which apparently presented more of a culture shock than 3,000 miles and an ocean. “Wrestling!,” Sarah said. “It was frightening. I got to wrestle with the PE teacher; I fell to the ground most of the time. The children loved it.”

They weren’t the only ones.

“Having Sarah here with us added so much to our first grade,” said Haggerty. “She brought with her foods to taste and books about her culture. She also brought warmth and genuine interest in our children and in being a part of our school family. What stands out to me the most about Sarah’s visit is the closeness that we felt towards her after only a very short time.  She truly felt like a part of this family… and she was. This will be a relationship that continues to grow and we will all be better for it.”