Bridging The Gap: One Program's Mission To Connect Youth Across America's Red And Blue Divide

By Lisa Pelgin | Monday, 22 April 2024 01:50 PM
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Image Credit : Photo by Shutterstock user 143834497

In a pioneering initiative aimed at dismantling preconceived notions, the American Exchange Program is providing students from both conservative and liberal states a cost-free opportunity to traverse the varied terrains of the United States.

The program seeks to challenge any misconceptions these young minds may harbor about regions distant from their homes.

Z.J. Schwartz, a program alumnus from California, shared his experience with "Fox & Friends Weekend," stating, "It's kind of hard to say no to a free trip, but I had this obsession with just seeing everywhere I can, especially parts of the country. It's amazing to see, especially the Midwest."

The American Exchange Program offers high school seniors from urban centers such as New York City and Los Angeles a glimpse into the rural American lifestyle, and vice versa. The program's primary objective is to dispel misunderstandings about diverse lifestyles and to broaden horizons, thereby bridging the divide within the nation.

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Schwartz's journey took him to South Dakota, where he anticipated a desolate landscape punctuated by the occasional dwelling. However, he was pleasantly surprised by the array of activities available. "I grew up in a very populated area, so seeing huge fields, farms, just stuff that I never thought I'd get to see, those are kind of the best experiences because it's a whole new part of the country. It's almost like it's almost like another country," he elaborated.

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Brook Roozen, a program alumna from South Dakota who was sent to New York City for her trip, confessed that she was initially apprehensive due to rumors about the dangers of large cities. "I had a lot of people around me telling me like, 'Oh, you're going to get your things stolen. These five random people you're staying with are going to hurt you.' So many kind of absurd things, so I was a little nervous. I definitely was a little scared," she told Fox News' Will Cain.

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The exchange proved to be a transformative experience for both Roozen and Schwartz, as they discovered that the realities of their trips were starkly different from their initial expectations. "It was honestly the best experience of my life, and I would not trade it for anything. I met such amazing people during it that my heart is full because of it," Roozen expressed.

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Schwartz's preconceived notions about South Dakota were completely overturned when he encountered unexpected aspects of the state and engaged in a variety of enjoyable activities. "When we flew in, we flew to Sioux Falls, which is a beautiful, vibrant city, and then Flandreau is this tiny town, but it's absolutely beautiful. There's shops lining every street, lots of farms with alpaca, bison and stuff that you would never expect to see up there and then [all] of the amazing people are so welcoming," he recounted.

According to the program's website, the students' participation is funded by donors who are enthusiastic about providing students the chance to broaden their understanding of the U.S. and their fellow citizens.

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