Tragedy Strikes the NFLS Exchange Program

by Charlie Norgaard

As mentioned earlier this week by school head Mo Copeland, OES was faced with a heartbreaking loss, one that will undoubtedly leave a permanent scar for families locally and globally.

Last weekend in California, a bus carrying exchange students from the Nanjing Foreign Language School (NFLS) crashed, taking the life of a student and leaving several others in severe medical conditions. Although OES has experienced many difficult losses throughout its existence, this incident is particularly painful for many within the community, specifically to those within the Middle School.

Ann Sulzer, Middle School head, says that the Middle School, “has responded with an amazing outburst of compassion”. Parents, faculty, and students have been focusing huge amounts of effort towards ensuring that the Nanjing students’ wellbeing is looked out for by sending letters and care packages to the students. Sara Fromme, Upper and Middle School Mandarin teacher, flew down to Fresno as soon as she heard the news, shortly followed by Cindy McEnroe to provide aid for the students.

Sulzer has received offers from parents to host more than one student, or even offers to fly down themselves to provide assistance. The current energy within the Middle School radiates compassion and concern for the victims, and their support will unquestionably help a faster and less painful recovery. Aside from the safety and well-being of the Nanjing students, however, another concern for OES is the potential change in the mindset of parents and students from the NFLS.

As with any tragedy, this incident will reopen a conversation that may move many parents and students to question whether to still consider global travel, which could potentially leave a permanent scar on the exchange program. This is especially concerning for students and faculty within the Mandarin program at OES, since the exchange program deeply enriches the curriculum. “The program is important because it allows for people to learn about other foreign and unfamiliar cultures. It expands cultural horizons and broadens a greater understanding of the world around us”, says Nicholas C. from the Mandarin III class.

Fortunately, the Nanjing students are still willing to proceed as planned, and will be joining OES for the homestay exchange this weekend, but future trips may be in question.

OES commends the students of NFLS for their courage and perseverance, and hope for a quick and peaceful recovery. For the parents in Nanjing, we wish the best for their children and our thoughts are with them in this difficult time.