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METCO in Concord Today

METCO in Concord Today

by Polly Attwood

It was 39 years ago that the first METCO students started at the High School in Concord. Next year will be the Concord METCO program’s 40th year, and should be a moment for both celebration and reflection. Last June, 20 METCO students graduated from CCHS after their years here – years of commitment, early rising and hard work.

There are 178 students from Boston communities in the Concord-Carlisle school system this year – 106 in Kindergarten through 8th grade, and 72 at the High School. Generally, students are accepted in Kindergarten, 6th and 9th grade – transitions at other grades are always more difficult for all students, and having them start at a time when all students are making transitions has proved over time to increase the chances of success. Naturally, there are occasionally some exceptions made, especially in the case of siblings who may already be familiar with the town through a brother or sister’s ties and relationships.

Those relationships are very important, although it was several years before that fact was recognized. In 1978, after a racial incident at the High School, a series of town meetings were held, called the Climate for Freedom Forum. Several initiatives resulted from those meetings, one of which was the formation of the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council. This represented a re-commitment by the town to examine issues of diversity, human rights and how these issues impact the lives of all in our town. Another development was the formation of a Host Family program (later called the Cooperating Family Program, and now known as the Family Friends program).

At the Elementary Schools the program works by matching Concord and Boston students in order to provide a contact point for parents, playdates for the children, and some activities arranged for the days when a late bus is provided. At the Middle and High School, the program changes as the students make more friends, and are involved in different after school activities. Friendships, by the time they are in High School, tend to be more focused around these activities. Currently, we have High School Boston students in the Step Club, Basketball, Football, Soccer, Drama Club, Band, Chorus, and the Unity Club, among other activities.

We are fortunate to have a large group of committed parents, both Boston and Concord, who work hard to ensure the success of the program. They, along with the teachers and staff, have one aim: to provide a quality educational experience for all children in school, in a setting that feels safe and accepting of all. Is there more we can do? Of course! We need to remind ourselves constantly of the importance of this program, both for Concord residents and for our Boston families, understanding that this relationship is a two-way street, with benefits and obligations on both sides.

I often go up to the High School for Graduation Day – just to watch kids I’ve known since Kindergarten graduate. I remember the huge commitment by their parents; I remember the triumphs and struggles the children experienced, the friendships they have made. I am very aware of the lessons they have taught us in Concord, their achievement in becoming young men and women with the facility to be bi-cultural in their outlook and strong in their belief in themselves. In the words of Jason Varitek – I live for this!

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The Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council is a community organization of volunteers working together to foster respect, understanding, good will, and conciliation among individuals and groups in the community. It is dedicated to the belief that all people are entitled to dignity and respect. The role of the Human Rights Council is one of education and advocacy.

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