Waco High and 30 years in the foreign exchange program

Waco High and German exchange students to celebrate 30th anniversary of foreign exchange program
Posted on 03/30/2016

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For the past 30 years, students and teachers at Waco High School (formerly Richfield High) along with their counterparts across the globe in Kerpen, Germany have been saying “willkommen" to each other on a regular basis since forming a partnership during the 1985-1986 school year.  The foreign exchange program between the two schools, and the two countries, is known as the Waco High German American Partnership Program or GAPP. Every other year, the German students visit Waco for several weeks, living in the homes of Waco High students while becoming immersed in the Texas culture and attending classes at Waco High.  In the summer, the Waco High students reciprocate the visit by traveling to Kerpen to experience life in Germany.

Earlier this month, the school hosted a reception to welcome the newest group of German students to Waco. There are 21 German students, accompanied by two German teachers, who are attending classes at Waco High while soaking up the Texas culture for three weeks and living with Waco High families.  

The program, which is sponsored by the United States Department of State, dates back to the days when former Richfield High School teacher Clarke Flentge established the partnership with Chris Von Freeden from Gymnasium der Stadt Kerpen in Kerpen, Germany. Flentge has since retired, but Von Freeden is still actively involved in the program.

Matthew Bachofen is the German teacher at Waco High and also serves as the sponsor for the summer exchange to Germany. 

“This is an exchange program, it is not a trip,” explained Bachofen. “For many of the German students, coming to Texas can be a culture shock, but when they are in Waco, they are treated like a member of the family.” 

In June, the German students will return the favor when the Waco High students visit Germany. It will be a unique learning opportunity for the Waco students to be immersed in the German language, many staying in homes where English is not spoken at all. In addition to attending school along with their German counterparts, they will experience life from the Germans perspective by eating meals prepared in homes and walking along the cobblestone streets that are indicative of old-world European passageways. 

“And that Texas hospitality will be returned a thousand times when our students visit Germany this summer,” Bachofen added, “which is why this program has continued for 30 years.”

After a three-week stay, the German students and teachers will depart Waco and head for San Antonio, Texas on April 4.

Waco ISD photo, Mary Senter

The Waco ISD Board of Trustees recognized the 30th anniversary of the Waco High German American Partnership Program (GAPP) foreign exchange program at the March 24 Waco ISD Board meeting. Pictured in the photo with the Waco ISD Board of Trustees (along the back row) are the Waco High students and their 21 German exchange students, Waco High German Teacher Matthew Bachofen (front row, fourth from the left), Waco High Sponsor Glenda Bain (front row, third from the left), Superintendent Bonny Cain (back row, second from right), and Teacher Corinna Castor from Gymnasium der Stadt Kerpen - Europaschule (back row, far right end).