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Gow Draws Students from Across the Globe
News, Schools
Gow Draws Students from Across the Globe

by Julie Hadley

East Aurora Advertiser

The Gow School is probably best known in the local community as being a private school for the education of young men with dyslexia and other reading-based learning challenges, but many might be surprised to learn that the school, located on Emery Road, attracts a significant number of international students as well.

“Gow is becoming known as one of the best destinations in the world for dyslexic students,” said the Gow School’s headmaster, M. Bradley Rogers.

Gone are the days when the school population was primarily “white, upper class, American students,” said Rogers. “Thirty percent of our students are people of color, and 25 percent of our students are international.”

The school also employs some international teachers. In all, 22 countries are represented, with the flags of each suspended from the ceiling of the dining hall, fostering the sense of community and diversity that Rogers feels is so important to the school’s success.

“The international students bring their culture, their food,” Rogers said, noting that their politeness is often pointed out to him when he’s out and about in the community. “They behave as though they’re guests,” he acknowledged.

In return, the school provides programs that involve all the students, including the international kids, in American commemorations. “They know what the red poppies on Veterans Day signify,” Rogers said. “And 75 years after the attack, Japanese and American students were studying together on Pearl Harbor Day.”

Several students, hailing from places as varied the Cayman Islands to Saudi Arabia, recently spoke with the newspaper about their homes, their struggles in school, and the experiences they’ve been having at The Gow School and in the broader local community.

Ahmed Diagne, a ninth-grader from Dakar, Senegal, a small country on the Atlantic coast of Africa, appreciates the individual attention he gets from his instructors. “You have to try to fail,” he said, pointing out the number of study halls available, along with tutorials with individual teachers.

Christopher Powell, also in the ninth grade, is from Jamaica, where he was home-schooled for a while. His family moved to Miami and considered sending him to boarding schools in Virginia or England before they discovered The Gow School. “I like the smaller classes,” he said. “The teachers are always open to help you.”

Wesley Yau, a 12th-grader from Hong Kong, is no stranger to local hockey fans—he is a net minder for the East Aurora varsity hockey team. In addition to hockey, he plays soccer, wrestles, and plays lacrosse, even playing for Hong Kong’s team in England last year. He also snowboards.

Rogers pointed out the positive peer pressure that a boarding school environment has had on many of the students. “Kids from Hong Kong try snowboarding because everybody else is trying it,” he said.

Technology is also helping parents half a world away cope with the idea of leaving their teen, or in many cases, pre-teen, son in our remote corner of the world. “There’s more acceptance from international parents because of the ability to video-conference through applications such as Skype,” Rogers explained. “They can see their son’s body language, they see how he’s doing.”

Saud Jedea is a 12th-grader hailing from Saudi Arabia, but he has family living in New York City. Nevertheless, he admitted that the first few years of homesickness were hard to deal with. “I used to call home every day,” he said of his early years. “Now it’s more like once a week. But I still call.” Many of the students appreciate the technology, including Smart Boards and other applications that assist them with their reading, which The Gow School provides.

Several students learned of The Gow School through word of mouth, or through its summer program. Four students are from the Cayman Islands, including George Lewis, a ninth-grader who first attended the Gow summer program to help him gain a leg up on his studies at home, but his family was so impressed, he was enrolled as a full-time student.

Sean Broderick, a 10th-grader, is in his second year at The Gow School, while Michael Kellyman, an 11th-grader, is spending his fourth year as a Gow student. John Edwards is an eighth-grader from Bermuda. Jose Gautreau is in his third year at Gow, currently in the 10th grade, and comes from the Dominican Republic. Thirteen-year-old Jonathan Woo, of Hong Kong, is enjoying his first year as a Gow School seventh-grader.

The students are encouraged to explore the community beyond the school—weekends and “Headmaster’s Days” provide them with opportunities to shop at the Galleria Mall or Target, attend movies at Quaker Crossing, or ice skate at the Time Warner Classic Rink. Many of the students, even the snowboarders, expressed some measure of dismay at the snow dumped on the area during a recent storm.

All of the students aspire to attend college—many are interested in three-dimensional art, and architecture seems to be a popular career path. No matter where they call home, whether from Tanzania or Texas, the students bond because of their common trait—dyslexia.

“They have each other’s backs,” Rogers said, pointing out a recent incident at a Buffalo Bills football game, when some overly stimulated fans began singling out one of the students from Sri Lanka. “Our students stepped right up–‘if you tease my brother, you tease me’,” Rogers recalled of the confrontation. The fans backed down.

It’s also important to note that, while school boards across New York State are struggling to develop their budgets in the face of looming tax caps and escalating costs, The Gow School manages to provide a premiere college-preparatory education for its students while relying solely on fundraising and tuition for its revenues. “We receive no government assistance,” Rogers said, adding that the school adds approximately $8 million to the local economy. “We employ about 70 local people,” Rogers estimated. “We’re trying to embrace all of Western New York.”

And, in turn, all the students who call The Gow School home during each academic year have the opportunity to take away a unique understanding of the cultures, the countries, and the lives of their classmates, both international and domestic, in addition to the skills they’ll need to take them into their futures.

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This article originally appeared in the East Aurora Advertiser newspaper and its website www.eastaurorany.com. The article is republished with permission.

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