TOWNSHEND -- Since being accepted into the program in February of 2013, 16 high school students from Leland & Gray have been gearing up to depart for a month-long study/performance tour of China as part of "Journey East: Leland and Gray's Sino-American Academy and Arts Exchange."

Beginning this past January, the students, ranging in age from 14 to 18, have been enrolled in China-related courses at Leland and Gray where they have studied Chinese history, geography, philosophy, literature, language and film, in preparation for their adventure in the Far East.

A central focus of the Journey East program is an original production developed by the students with musical and artistic direction from long-time Leland & Gray music teacher Ron Kelley and Jennifer Connor, both of whom have extensive experience developing programs that bridge cultural barriers. Utilizing the diverse talents of the students, this fun-filled program of dance, comedy, instrumental and vocal music will be presented to thousands of Chinese students in primary, middle schools and universities in Guizhou Province, Chongqing, Shandong Province in eastern China and in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

During their stay in Hohhot, the students will take up residence at the Arts College of Inner Mongolia University where they will collaborate with Chinese/Mongolian teachers and students, each sharing their knowledge of songs, dances and instruments from their culture with one another.

The culmination of the program in China will be a final, joint performance of vocal and instrumental music and dance for an audience of over 1,500 in the Concert Hall of the University.

Upon returning from China in late April, the students engage in an in-depth study of an aspect of China that they have found to be particularly interesting and each student creates a multi-media presentation on his/her chosen topic.

Additionally, the show that the students have created, aptly named "Monkey Business," will be presented to the Leland & Gray community and the public at 7:30 p.m. on May 2 in the Dutton Gymnasium at the high school.

Former elementary and middle school teachers of these students are encouraged to have the student participants present to their current students as these young women and men will have a treasure trove of information and experiences to

For more information on the Journey East Program here and in China visit: journeyeast.csrworld.com and www.lelandandgray.org.

The website, maintained by Leland and Gray tech specialist Kevin Burke, will be updated with photos and student essays and reflections on a daily basis beginning on March 26 and extending through April 24.

The ensemble:

Summer Bills, Wardsboro

Emma Bourne, Brookline

Samantha Chase, Chester

Aaron Claussen, Townshend

Max Cramp, Williamsville

Evan Daigneault, Newfane

Chloe Fawcett, Jamaica

Susan Francy, Wardsboro

Logan Hazard, Jamaica

Jessica Madore, Williamsville

Mariah Matyas, Newfane

Charly Sperling, Marlboro

Caroline Tietz, Townshend

Emma Urbaska, Newfane

Casey Williams, Jamaica

Kayla Williams, Newfane

The students will be joined by Journey East alums and documentary film makers Giannina Gaspero-Beckstrom of Newfane, Fraser Query of Jamaica and Guilford and Alana Redden of South Newfane.

Teachers include:

Tom Connor, Program Director, Jamaica

Jennifer Connor, Artistic Director, Jamaica

Ron Kelley, Music Director, Jamaica

Jessica Riemenschneider, Chinese Studies Teacher, Brattleboro

Kevin Burke, Webmaster and Tech Support, Wardsboro