Read the full article in the Plattsburgh Press Republican

Students from the Bronx were greeted by an unfamiliar braying as they arrived at Rodney "Buggy" Moran’s dairy farm in Reber, NY.

“Oh, my gosh! That’s a real donkey,” exclaimed one of the visitors. 

The Pelham Preparatory Academy students spent several days with their counterparts at Willsboro Central School — who later visited them in the Big Apple.

The student exchange is one of many activities provided by CFES, which is headquartered in Essex.

HORSES AND GOATS

A highlight in the North Country proved to be visits to three farms in the Reber area, where the students from the city didn't hold back as they processed the experience. 

"It smells divine," one offered, holding her nose as they toured the cow barn at Moran's. 

“You get used to the smell, right?” she asked Moran's son, Sheldon, who was explaining the milking process.

The students headed back into the sunlight, tiptoeing around muddy puddles. 

“Oh my God, horses. I love them!” a Pelham pupil cried out.

Climbing aboard a tractor-drawn hay wagon driven by Buggy, the crowd headed for Joe Nutini’s farm. 

The students were instantly drawn to Nutini’s critters — and the goats to the students, especially after he gave them treats to feed them. 

Nutini, who had lived in the New York City area, was especially pleased that he could share his love for farming with them.

“This is life changing in a way," observed Pamela Tetteh, while feeding a horse at the farm. 

“It’s seeing and doing things I don’t do in the Bronx. 

"We get a chance to collaborate our ideas, and hopefully with doing things like this, we can make a difference in the world.”

NO CELLPHONES

Then the hay wagon rumbled down the road to the Amish farm of Samuel and Lena Swartzentruber. 

Before the visit, the students were told to leave their cellphones and cameras on the wagon out of respect for their hosts. 

Mr. Swartzentruber talked to them about the simple farm life of the Amish. 

And as the students clambered back on the wagon, several of the Swartzentrubers' 14 children momentarily stopped their chores to shyly glance at the visitors.

Things taken for granted in the North Country amazed the city students. One such fact was that the walls they passed had been built from rocks cleared from the fields as much as 200 years ago with manual labor.

NEW FRIENDS

While sitting on hay bales within the confines of the wagon, the students from the two schools were not only in physical proximity to one another but seemed to bond even more than while in the classroom.

Reflecting on her North Country visit, Brianna Williams said, “I like being here. In the Bronx, everything is moving so fast. I feel like I’ve known my new friends for a long time.”

Paul Fine-Lease, a student at Willsboro Central, had looked forward to the experience.

"My brother had participated in the exchange a few years before me, and he had a great time, so I went in believing that I was going to have fun also."

But he was nervous, too.

"I was unsure as to if we were going to bond due to our huge differences in lifestyle," he said. 

"Luckily, we did, and I realized that both groups were still kids, and we do similar things and interact the same way.”

LEADERSHIP SUMMIT

Other activities during the Adirondack visit included a tour of Union College in Schenectady after meeting the NYC students at the Rensselaer train station, shadowing the Willsboro students at school, attending a Leadership Summit at the CFES Center and reading to Willsboro Elementary students.

MUCH BIGGER WORLD

The Willsboro Central students were equally amazed by their experiences in New York City.

"I could never stay in a city all my life; a portion of it, sure," junior Warren Jackson said. "My heart will always remain in the Adirondacks. 

"Being in the city made me realize that there is a much bigger world out there. It was hard to take it all in as there was so much to see, so much diversity, which we don't really have here at home."

Sophomore Emily Shaffer added, “I am very thankful to have been able to go on this trip and meet the exchange students. 

"It was definitely the best trip I've ever been on. I really loved being in the city, seeing all the different people, the lights, the action. I felt exciting and exhilarating to be there. 

"It was a bit overwhelming, though," she added, "so I don't think I could live there. I'm a country girl at heart, but I loved to visit.”

The students from Willsboro arrived at Penn Station and had walking tours of New York University and the financial district, an evening visit to Times Square.

They saw the "Today Show," live, shadowed Pelham students and toured Fordham University.

“Meeting the New York City students was one my best experiences thus far, and I plan on keeping in touch with them,” Nate Yeager said.