Click photo to enlarge
Leland & Gray Union High School students, as part of the Journey East program, will be traveling to China next week.

TOWNSHEND >> On March 22, Leland and Gray Union High School students enrolled in the Journey East Program will depart for a month of performance and cultural study in China. After having been accepted into the Journey East Program at Leland and Gray in February of 2015, and starting the program in January 2016, students have been participating in a semester-long academic experience. They have been learning Chinese language, culture and history, as well as creating a unique production to be performed across China.

The production, "Dare to Dream," is directed by the long-time artistic director Jennie Connor. The musical director, a new addition to the program, is Leland and Gray music teacher Riley Goodemote. The students, under the direction of Connor and Goodemote, have been creating a show that can be enjoyed by audiences both in China and in the United States. The cultural and linguistic divide is bridged by a largely non-verbal show that uses movement and music to captivate the audience. This show will be performed in primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities in various places across China, including Guiyang and Kaili of Guizhou Province, Chongqing, Qufu (Confucius' birthplace in Shandong Province), Hohhot, Inner Mongolia and areas around these cities.


The variety of places that will be visited on this trip gives students a diverse and in-depth look at China and its culture. Students will see important cultural sites in each area they visit, as well as visiting schools and interacting with Chinese students. The Journey East students will stay with host families in Guizhou Province, giving them first-hand experience of life in China. In Hohhot, they will rehearse and collaborate with students from the Arts College of Inner Mongolia University. This collaboration will result in a culminating performance in front of an audience of 1,500 students and teachers at the Arts College.

Upon returning from China the Journey East group will be performing "Dare to Dream" at various places around Vermont, including an evening performance at the Leland and Gray Main Gym on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m., that is open to the community. In addition to that performance the students will be performing at their elementary schools to share their experiences with local students.

Since Journey East began in 2000, over 250 students from rural Vermont have had the opportunity to travel to China and be immersed in China's rich and complex culture.

This year's group of students includes: Sarah Anderson (Wardsboro), Tino Benson (Townshend), Zoie Brooks (Jamaica), Kenny Cashman (Wardsboro), Nathan Claussen (Townshend), Adam Culver (Grafton), Sam Harrison (East Dover/Newfane), Mariah Hazard (Jamaica), Jake Ires (Windham), Maris Linder (Townshend), Patrick McDonald (Windham), Skyler Nupp (Newfane), Brianna Reed (Newfane), Fairen Stark (Newfane), Sam Thibault (Williamsville/Dummerston), and Becca Williams (Jamaica).

The adults on the trip are: Tom Connor (program director), Jennie Connor (artistic director), Jesse Riemenschneider (assistant program director), Riley Goodemote (musical director), Kevin Burke (technology coordinator) and Jen Connor (chaperone).

For more information on the trip, the performance, and the Journey East program, visit