2008-05-08 / News

International Rotary team visits island schools

By Stephanie Heelan Cotsonas

The Jamestown Rotary Club had a busy week as they hosted an international Rotary team from India.

The team was specifically in Jamestown to learn more about special education and types of education, under the direction of Steve Mecca, who is the co-chair of the Group Study Exchange Committee for the district of 66 Rotary clubs in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

"The goal of the educational program of the Rotary Club is to educate the visiting team on our society: our culture, our industry, our way of life, our commerce, and our education system," Mecca said.

On May 1, the visiting team from India met with Jamestown School principals Kathy Almanzor and Carrie Melucci. The team spent the morning visiting and touring the Lawn and Melrose schools, stopping in the classrooms and hearing an overview and explanation of the special education process.

"We do such a great job with special education in this community and Kathy Almanzor is right on top of the special education program. They were very impressed with that. When they saw an occupational therapy class with one student and one teacher they were blown away," Mecca said.

The visiting team from India was in the area for a total of four weeks. Mecca managed their visit for their third week and said, "Since I am an educator, I try to emphasize the importance of education in our region. We had the chance to visit colleges and universities. We also emphasized farming and the uniqueness of Watson and Dutra farms. They visited various historic places like the lighthouse and spent time at a charter school."

Overall Mecca said the visiting team was very engaged and particularly interested in learning more about implementing a special education process like that in Jamestown. "There is nothing like it in their country, so that really resonated with them. They put all the students in one class; it does not matter if one child learns at a different rate. Nothing really extraordinary is done to individualize any programs," he said.

According to Mecca, the Group Study Exchange program is pretty elaborate. "Every year the rotary districts exchange a group of people with another district. We have exchanged with many countries over the years. My responsibility is generally the outbound team, recruiting a team from our district to travel to another country."

Mecca has been involved with the exchange program for 12 years and has been chairman for 10. The Jamestown Rotary Club has done exchanges in the past with Portugal, Australia, the Netherlands, and England. The team from India spent their first week in Quincy, Massachusetts, the second week they were in Providence and their final week will be spent in and around the Cape.

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