By Harold Gwin
Gwen Spitz and her son, Hunter, are spending a month in Poland this summer — but they’re not taking a lengthy vacation.
The two are participating in an English Through the Arts teaching camp sponsored by The Kosciuszko Foundation.
Spitz, an eighth-grade English and language-arts teacher at South Range Middle School, said she learned about the program while participating in a writing workshop at Youngstown State University and decided to attend an information session about the camp.
“It looked like the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said, explaining why she applied.
Teachers must submit an application, references and a lesson plan as well as undergo an interview as part of the selection process.
The program offers subjects such as music, art and drama as well as American sports, and that’s where her son comes in.
Hunter, 18, graduated in the top 10 of his class at South Range this year and is a three-year varsity letterman in football. He also played baseball and ran track and plans to attend Ohio State University this fall.
Spitz said he volunteered to accompany her to Poland as a teacher’s assistant for the American sports program as well as help out with guitar classes.
“I think this will be a wonderful experience for Hunter and I to share together before he leaves for college in the fall, and I know it will broaden his understanding, appreciation and respect for a culture other than his own,” she said.
Spitz and her son are accomplished campers, spending part of every summer at the YMCA’s Camp Fitch as family campers. Hunter also has served as a camp counselor there.
She said her family has hosted exchange students from Belgium and Spain.
Participants in the English Through the Arts program must pay their own airfare but receive room, board and a modest stipend as well as a weeklong tour of Polish historical and cultural sites after the camp.
Spitz will be teaching drama to about 50 young people between the ages of 13 and 15. In addition to daily classes, she will be putting on a play based on the life of composer Fr d ric Chopin, marking the 200th anniversary of his birth.
She teaches a unit on Anne Frank and the Holocaust at South Range. Anne Frank died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen, a German concentration camp, in 1945. Spitz said the post-camp tour will enable her to see Auschwitz, another concentration camp in Poland, and bring back an account to share with her students.