Schools Not So Different After All in Illinois

Monday, March 4, 2013

Andrea Reynolds clutches a red spiral notebook as her bus pulls up to Danville High School. The Catlin High School student is both excited and nervous about her first visit to the school, which physically is nearly 7 times the size of hers and has more than 8 times the number of students.

In the days leading up to the visit — the first day of a two-day exchange between 10 Catlin seniors and 10 Danville seniors on Feb. 19 and 20 — she and her classmates wonder whether the rumors they've heard about the bigger school are true: There's a metal detector at the front door. Police officers patrol the hallways. Students get jumped in bathrooms.

Andrea's grandmother tells her she fears for her safety.But the teen has a much different concern: What will they think of her? "I'm kind of shy at first," Andrea says. She hopes she and her swap partner hit it off and, perhaps, discover they have something in common.

The Catlin-Danville exchange is the senior service-learning project of 17-year-old Alex Burke and 18-year-old Caleb Cord. Like many of their classmates, both boys have lived in Catlin and attended the small, rural and mostly white school district of 520 students most of their lives.

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