Students at Pacific Ridge School learn how to live in a 21st century world through travel programs

By Kristina Houck

Still in high school, Emily St. Marie has already completed her first internship and Tony Oliverio has already studied abroad. Both are students at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, an independent college preparatory school that emphasizes global engagement, as well as academic excellence and ethical responsibility.

“We live in a global community,” said Head of School Dr. Bob Ogle, who helped launch the middle and high school in 2007. “Anytime we connect our students with other communities outside our school, whether it’s across the street or across the globe, we are teaching them how to work with others and how to live in a 21st century world. There’s no way you can teach that just in books.”

Along with most of the ninth grade class, Tony Oliverio traveled to China last spring in a school-designed program. During the nearly two-week-long trip students explored China’s capital, toured monumental sites, hiked the Great Wall, learned about the lives and work of farmers in rural China and volunteered in primary schools in small villages.

Tony, who has studied Chinese for five years, said his favorite part of the trip was the home stay experience in Shanghai, where he stayed with a mother, child and two sets of grandparents.

“It’s a diverse world with so many different cultures and people and outlooks,” said Tony, a 15-year-old sophomore. “Getting to experience that at such a young age and getting familiar with that, I think, will serve us well later on.”

Like Tony Oliverio, Emily St. Marie participated in the China trip when she was in ninth grade. More recently, she and two other students spent their summer interning at a South Korean language school.

As a freshman, Emily was one of several students who founded a service-learning group called Lingo Online. Working with the contacts of a former Pacific Ridge faculty member who now works in South Korea, the group offers free English lessons to non-native speakers via Skype.

During the self-designed five-week internship with language institution Paedea, Emily visited the land and people she had experienced only virtually.

“I had a more hands-on approach,” said Emily, an 18-year-old senior. “Getting to see the classrooms and the material that’s actually used was really helpful in my exploration into teaching English.”

Along with classmates Carter Triana and Anny Huang, Emily spent the first half of each day creating worksheets and developing grammar and vocabulary assessments. For the second half of each day, the students pursued independent projects.

Emily worked on increasing the number of children’s audiobooks in Paedea’s library system. She selected books, designated timelines and sourced narrators, narrating a few of the books herself.

“Going to these places where the living conditions are so different, even if it’s in a very advanced nation like South Korea where the conditions are very similar to ours, or going to a place in rural China where the conditions are so different, it’s great for kids to get this kind of perspective,” she said. “Most kids don’t get to experience anything outside of their bubble at home.”

Pacific Ridge School offers a variety of travel programs for all students. Last year, more than 90 percent of the school’s students traveled at the end of the school year, while others chose to participate in local internships or other activities, Ogle said.

Located at 6269 El Fuerte St. in Carlsbad, Pacific Ridge School opened in 2007 with 108 students. The school has since grown to 503 students and 95 faculty and staff.

Global engagement is just one of the three pillars of the school’s mission statement. Pacific Ridge promotes academic excellence by offering seminar-style teaching, while an extensive service learning program built into the curriculum helps students learn ethical responsibility.

“I think our school is a place where everyone wants to know about the world, wants to know more about different cultures,” Tony said. “I think that yearning to know more is something we can apply to academics, ethical responsibility, and obviously, global engagement.”

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