AMY SWEENEY/Staff photo Phillips Academy students Shannon Callahan, left, and Michelle Hartman talk with Lawrence High School students Brady Colon, center, and Omar Dejesus during an exchange between the two schools’ Spanish classes. The Phillips Academy students were at Lawrence High yesterday and the LHS students will visit the Phillips campus next week.

LAWRENCE — Even though their backgrounds couldn't be more different, students from Lawrence High School and Phillips Academy found out they had more in common than they thought.

"We talked about the Super Bowl and learned that we all like to have fun," said Lydia Azaret, of North Andover, a senior at Phillips Academy.

Sixteen students from the Andover private school who are studying Spanish visited Cesar Sanchez' Spanish class in Lawrence yesterday.

Sanchez observed that the town of Andover was once part of Lawrence. "Both communities are intertwined and the best thing to do is bring them together," Sanchez said.

"Young people are the same everywhere in the world. I hope you keep the same enthusiasm for learning and that our friendship continues," Sanchez said.

Mark Cutler who teaches "Emerging in Lawrence, the Immigrant City," at Phillips Academy said his goal is to give his students a holistic view of the Spanish language and Latino culture .

"I'm using Lawrence as a microcosm of the U.S. to talk about stories of immigration. It behooves us to get to know this community, culture and language," Cutler said.

"There's a lot of negative sentiment in the U.S. and getting to know them on a personal level can develop a better understanding and empathy," Cutler said.

Cutler has taken his class to Lawrence Heritage State Park, where students learned about the city's settlers and industrial history, and will later tour a Spanish language newspaper. He also plans to have his students speak with Latino elders at the Lawrence Senior Center about their stories of immigration for a writing project and to interview people on the streets for a video.

Between giggles, students spoke in English and Spanish about their interests in music, sports and their respective schools.

Yesterday's was the first meeting between the two classes. In addition to talking about their likes, dislikes, families and sports, they read "Lawrence City" a poem by Sanchez about Lawrence, and Lawrence students Michael Mena and Brianda Marquez danced bachata.

"There was a lot of trepidation when we first came in," Tailor DiOrtona, a senior at Phillips, said. But she soon found out some Lawrence High students are applying to the same colleges as she is.

"We're all balancing work and school," she said.

Next Thursday, Sanchez' students will visit the Phillips campus. They will meet again in April and May.

"The world does not have any frontiers and we shouldn't either," said Cesar Sanchez. "The best thing to do is come together."

Rikania Ortega, a junior at Lawrence High, was happy about the meeting.

"I had a chance to meet new people my age that like to play basketball like I do," Ortega said.

Michael Mena, senior at Lawrence High agreed.

"We were able to knock off stereotypes and had a great cultural exchange," Mena said.


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