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GAPP is looking for another German city to partner with

  • Ryeleigh Lair, junior at Charles City High School, speaks to the Board of Education about the how important GAPP is to her, and reads a letter she wrote to an anonymous donor to the program. Press photo by Thomas Nelson.

By Thomas Nelson,

The German American Partnership Program, or GAPP, in Charles City will need to find a new  partner school, because a Walsrode, Germany, school will no longer exchange students.

“Even though the exchange with Walsrode and Charles city has ended, GAPP is still continuing,” said Charles City German teacher and GAPP Coordinator Marilyn Buttjer.

Gymnasium Walsrode school made the decision to leave the program due to budget cuts and changes in exchange program regulations in Germany, according to the Charles City Board of Education agenda.

Buttjer went before the board to update members on where the GAPP program is, now that Walsrode is not participating.

Buttjer said she’s found two other schools in the vicinity of Walsrode that want to have an exchange.

Charles City partners with St. Ansgar schools for the GAPP program, and during the schools’ winter break Buttjer and Laura Larson, the St. Ansgar German teacher  and GAPP coordinator, got together to discuss their options.

“We need to write something about our school, very briefly (and) descriptive and then contact them,” Buttjer said.

The letter is pretty much finished, Buttjer said, all that remains is to contact the two schools.

“So I am hoping that, if everything goes well, that we contact them this month, get a reply this month, and know this month that it’s a go,” she said.

One the schools wants to have an exchange this fall, Buttjer said, so time is of the essence.

The program has had an impact on the students of Charles City.

Ryeleigh Lair, a junior at Charles City High School and a German student, read a letter she wrote to an anonymous donor of the program during the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Lair was clearly emotional during her reading. She had written the letter to thank the donor, and Buttjer asked her to read it in front of the board.

The letter began,”Hallo Stranger,” because of the anonymous nature of the donor.

“I wanted to say thank you so much for your donation, thoughtfulness and selflessness,” Lair read to the board Monday night. “It means so much to me that people from the community care so much about this life-changing trip as I do.”

Lair had planned to participate in the trip and program since she was in eighth-grade, she wrote.

“I hope one day I find out who you are, so I can thank you in person. It means so much,” Lair wrote and said.

Switching from Walsrode to another school is just the “next chapter” of the Charles City GAPP, Buttjer said.

“This is such an important program for these kids,” she said.

The program allows students to both learn German in the classroom and use it in Germany, giving the students real-life experience.

“It’s not just the language, it’s the culture,” Buttjer said. “It’s being there and looking at it through your own eyes, but a little bit differently than a tourist.”

Charles City has had GAPP since 1989.

“The total picture of GAPP will go on for 28 more years,” Buttjer said. “We are traveling to Berlin again this year.”

The students will go in June.

“They’re so excited about it,” Buttjer said. “It’s a good group.”

GAPP is a national program that partners American and German schools for exchanges between the countries.

“Hopefully we’ll find (a new school) very, very soon,” Buttjer said. “A lot of people in the community have been involved in this program as hosts, and they realize the importance of this, too.”

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