Love of freedom and a book: Americans could learn from Lithuanians

Between shades of grey. By Rūta Šepetys
Between shades of grey. By Rūta Šepetys

Lithuanian high school students are a great example of gratitude and respect for freedom. These are the observations of the representatives of the all-boys school Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) in Nashville (USA). According to them, students in Lithuania, as in all Europe, have excellent English as well as other foreign language skills. They have also good knowledge of the cultures of other countries; therefore, Americans have a lot to learn from them.

This is the impression that visitors from the USA formed while performing regular exchanges with the LSMU Gymnasium in Kaunas. The exchange has turned into a civic education project for American and Lithuanian students “LSMUG – MBA: one family” which has been going on for five years

Engaged by Between Shades of Gray book

Back in 2014, teachers from the private MBA school for boys and Harpeth Hall School for girls came to Lithuania. They were interested in the themes and events described in the book of a writer of Lithuanian origin living in Nashville – Rūta ŠepetysBetween Shades of Gray. “We read this book with our students in Nashville. Later, during one meeting we decided that we would like to share the impressions of the book with Lithuanian students.  That is how the connection with LSMU Gymnasium, which also devoted much attention to this book, was established,” the MBA teacher project manager Emmett Russell recalls.

As reported by the boys’ school representatives, the main goal of the cooperation is to strengthen the connection with LSMU Gymnasium as well as to learn from each other how to educate a young person, who is fully prepared for university studies. “Students from LSMU Gymnasium visited us and demonstrated excellent learning outcomes. I should admit that we were surprised,” E. Russell says.

The guests from the United States were fascinated by the history of Lithuania. During five year of visits to Lithuania, they have visited the Rumšiškės Folk Life Museum, where they have enjoyed civic lessons taught by the tireless soul of Laptev society Mrs. Irena; they have also met the participants of Mission Siberia and admired Trakai and the dunes of Nida. The Americans also visited the Hill of Crosses and the 9th Fort, where Holocaust victims were honored.

While visiting the capital Vilnius, the guests from the USA have always been welcomed in the Seimas (the Parliament of the Lithuanian Republic) where they have had meetings with a member of the parliament Rasa Juknevičienė. This year, the boys’ school representatives paid close attention to the education process at the LSMU Gymnasium, they also continued project activities and discovered M. K. Čiurlionis.

Students educate each other

According to the Headmaster of the LSMU Gymnasium Arūnas Bučnys, this project is a great way to educate each other. “Lithuanian schoolchildren are sometimes bored with the history of deportations or they no longer accept it because of the abundance of information. That is why communication with young Americans opens the eyes of Lithuanians and reveals our uniqueness to the world. The patriotism of our students is also enhanced by the people of other nations, who value how our country suffered through the Soviet occupation,” the headmaster says.

The cooperation between both schools has already received support from the US Ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall, as well as the book author Rūta Šepetys. The US Boys’ School, which dedicates much attention to the project, supports the idea of strengthening the existing link, therefore, the LSMU Gymnasium should be visited by a delegation of parents of MBA students.

“This is a great proof of what can be done by people’s initiatives and enthusiasm. The project was particularly contributed to by MBA teacher E. Russell, LSMU International Project Coordinator Ingrida Krasauskienė and trip organizer Linas Žabaliūnas. The cooperation between teachers and managers from both schools is also very important, as well as parental support. Without these factors, this great project for civic education for young people would be impossible,” the Headmaster of LSMU Gymnasium Arūnas Bučnys concluded. It is remarkable that historical Between Shades of Gray book brought the students of Lithuania and the USA together!

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