Irish & American Exchange ProgramDuring “The Troubles,” Seamus Hodgkinson, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland left his hometown and ventured off to New York. His trip took him to Albany, where he was employed as a science teacher at a newly merged Protestant/ Catholic college preparatory school named Doane Stuart.
“Mr. H,” as he is more fondly known, envisioned an exchange program that would bring Catholic and Protestant students from Northern Ireland to America. He believed that through this program, the students from Northern Ireland could learn, and share in a multi-cultural environment, which embodies tolerance, respect and peace.
Belfast, Northern Ireland is truly divided, politically and religiously. The thirty-foot walls that were built to divide Catholics and Protestants stand as a very visible reminder of the conflict. While efforts have been made to heal the divided society, only 5 percent of the schools in Northern Ireland are integrated (Protestant and Catholic). Northern Ireland is a model for all societies that have been torn apart by religious difference, intolerance, and fear. Integrated Education is the path for peace.
Why Doane Stuart School? The tolerance, understanding and faith at Doane Stuart are what make possible the kind of respect sought in Northern Ireland. Lagan College, formed in 1981, began with 28 students (14 Catholic, 14 Protestant), similar to Doane Stuart School’s origins.
The Irish & American Exchange
Belfast to Doane Stuart:
Each year, two students from Lagan College, Belfast, Northern Ireland (one Catholic and one Protestant) are selected to attend Doane Stuart. These students attend classes and become an integral part of our community, gaining as much from our community as we do from them.
Additionally, student teachers from the Protestant Stranmillis University College and the Catholic Saint Mary’s University College visit Doane Stuart as part of their teacher training.
Doane Stuart to Belfast:
Each year, Doane Stuart students visit Lagan College, where they attend seminar courses in Irish History, Northern Ireland Politics, and Irish Language. These students get a glimpse of Belfast life while staying with host families from Lagan College. They have met with members of the US Embassy, Stormont (the Northern Ireland Parliament), City Officials, and key players in the peace process. Through the Exchange program, Doane Stuart has developed strong ties with Peace Players International and The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education.