Donation will boost student travel

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 18, 2013

 In the spring of 2012, nine Fitzgerald Public Schools students visited China for 19 days.

In the spring of 2012, nine Fitzgerald Public Schools students visited China for 19 days.

Photo provided

WARREN — As Fitzgerald Public Schools’ partnership with China continues, a student trip with adult chaperones to visit the foreign country is planned for the spring of 2014.

Money for the excursion does not come from the district. Since students who travel abroad have to pay their own way, fundraisers will be held and donations sought. Earlier this month, a large contribution came their way.

At a school board meeting March 7, AT&T Michigan Director of External Affairs Lori Doughty presented FPS Superintendent Barbara VanSweden with a $10,000 check from the company to help fund next year’s trip.

As a leading economic power in the world, understanding Chinese culture will be critical to many of the student’s career paths, according to school officials. In an effort to promote global awareness between the students and celebrate the different cultures, FPS began a partnership with the Jiading District in Shanghai in March 2011.

The $10,000 was donated to the Macomb Cultural & Economic Partnership, based in Mount Clemens. MCEP Secretary to the Board Ed Bruley said the money will go into a separate account for FPS.

“The money can only be spent on educational purposes,” said Bruley, who along with State Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, attended the check presentation. For instance, money from the account can be spent on admission to a museum, such as the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center.

AT&T has a program called Aspire, which supports a number of educational initiatives.

“We try to focus on education. That’s one of the main thrusts of the company,” said Doughty, who credited Switalski for the donation on behalf of FPS. “He’s the reason the district is getting this money. He worked with private industry to help get the money to the district.”

Switalski, who has traveled to China with MCEP, aided in submitting the grant proposal for the AT&T donation. He represents “a vast majority of Warren and all of Center Line” and meets with local school officials on a regular basis.

“I work with the superintendents at great lengths to find out what are the specific needs of the students,” the state representative said. “The (AT&T) Foundation decided this would be a great way to invest in the students.”

Bruley said it costs approximately $3,400 per student to visit China on a two-week trip. Bruley said that, for some students, it is their first time on an airplane, out of the country, on a train or subway, and also the first time they owned a passport. 

In 2012, students and staff from FPS visited China with MCEP members. Next year, a new group of students will travel abroad and is slated to visit three historical cities: Shanghai, Beijing and Qufu. Each stop is designed to provide understanding of the Chinese culture. Many students will travel with their Chinese language class.

FPS officials shared their appreciation regarding the $10,000 donation.

“I would like to thank AT&T for their generous donation,” VanSweden said. “It’s always an adventure to travel with the MCEP. We also want to thank Jon. We all recognize the importance of making sure our children have that global experience.”

“That’s a wonderful gift to China,” Board Trustee Lori Eseman-Dreyer said. “That was great.”

The MCEP is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Macomb county efforts at economic development.

The MCEP can be reached by phone at 586-783-6008, by email at, or online at or