South Charlotte

She prepares her students to go places

One of my favorite books is "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss.

The book is thought-provoking. It's about taking charge of life, working through challenges and succeeding.

Elizabeth Nagari, a teacher at Union County Early College High School in Monroe, does just that with her students.

"The school goes to grade 13: 'Super Seniors' we call them, with classes being pre-college or beginning college level," Nagari said.

The concept behind the government-sponsored Early College School is to help low-income students succeed. The students must meet certain requirements, among them maintaining good grades, having good attendance and demonstrating proper behavior.

The graduates will have earned one to two years of transferrable college credit, giving them a jump on obtaining a college degree.

Nagari, a native of Ecuador, met her husband of nine years, Paolo, in Milan, Italy. She was there studying early childhood education in addition to acquiring a degree in Spanish. The couple moved to south Charlotte two years later.

Nagari had the idea of expanding her students' horizons by initiating a student exchange program. After getting the proper approvals, Nagari was able to work with Silvestro Canna, principal of Pascal di Romentino High School in Romentino, Italy. Six students jumped at the chance to go to Italy.

The group worked for months to raise money for the nearly two-week trip. Victoria McGovern, a former UCEC principal - she retired July 1, 2011 - accompanied the group.

"It was a wonderful trip," said McGovern. "The history in every city we went to was amazing. The students matured so much while on this trip."

The students stayed with Italian families and kept journals of their experiences. They noted that the air conditioning wasn't the same as in the U.S., but the food was better.

Italian teenagers didn't have cars; They either walked, biked or took public transportation.

Eight students, along with Canna, visited from Italy in late August. They stayed with families in Monroe, attending classes at UCEC. The students enjoyed their time in North Carolina visiting places in Monroe and Charlotte. They noted that clothing here was cheaper, there were lots of open spaces and fast food wasn't delicious.

They were impressed with how friendly everyone in the area was.

Everyone agreed the exchange program was a great experience.

"Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. 98 and 3/4percent guaranteed," wrote Dr. Seuss.