The German-American Partnership Program (GAPP) is a high-school exchange program that has been linking American and German high schools in long-term partnerships since 1972. There are currently around 750 such partnerships in 48 U.S. states and all 16 German Bundesländer. The program’s primary purposes are to help students improve their foreign-language skills and to promote mutual cultural understanding. The program is supported and funded by the U.S. and German governments. More information is available at www.goethe.de/gapp.
A GAPP partnership typically works as follows: exchanges occur every year or, as in our case, every other year. On the German end, the program is coordinated by a teacher of English, and on the American end, the program is coordinated by a teacher of German. The American and German schools each have 10-20 participating students who are matched with a partner across the Atlantic. In the spring, the German students visit the U.S. for about 3 weeks, attending school and living in the families of their American partners; in the summer, the American students visit Germany for 3-5 weeks, likewise attending school and living in the families of their German partners, usually with some extra travel added. All participants also work together on a learning project.
History of GAPP in Fort Bend ISD
The history of GAPP in FBISD began in 1997 when Clements was matched with a German school in Bremen. We conducted successful exchanges with that school in 1998 and 2000, with a total of 17 American and 22 German participants. However, the school in Bremen chose not to renew the program after the 2000 exchange, and we were assigned a new partner school in Cologne. Clements conducted exchanges with Cologne in 2002 (11 Americans, 15 Germans), 2004 (8 Americans, 11 Germans), 2006 (17 Americans, 17 Germans), 2008 (17 Americans, 19 Germans), 2010 (16 Americans, 20 Germans), 2012 (17 Americans, 20 Germans), 2014 (17 Americans, 20 Germans), and 2016 (16 Americans, 20 Germans). Travis joined the partnership for the 2018 exchange (14 Americans [4 Clements, 10 Travis], 20 Germans). Total participants so far: 150 Americans, 184 Germans. Future exchanges, with Clements and Travis continuing to work together, should occur in even-numbered years (2020, 2022, …).
Our Partner School in Germany
Our partner school in Cologne is the Lessing-Gymnasium, which has about 1000 students in grades 5 through 12. The Gymnasium, the most rigorous of the three types of German high schools, culminates in the high-stakes Abitur examination at the end of the 12th grade. A passing score on the Abitur is a prerequisite for study at a German university. The Lessing-Gymnasium is located in an area called Zündorf on the southern outskirts of Cologne. Cologne, located on the Rhine River and settled since at least 38 B.C., was elevated to the status of “Roman colony” in 50 A.D. and still has many Roman ruins. It is the fourth largest city in Germany, with a population of about one million.