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The hundreds of friends who filled Johnson Theater on Saturday night, April 1, were treated to an extraordinary show of the bond between Norfolk Academy and Copernicus-Gymnasium.

As speaker after speaker noted, the 50-year friendship between our two schools is an example not just for other exchange programs but nations.

“You are truly making a difference in the world," said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, one of the celebration's distinguished speakers.

Another speaker, Molly Rowland, Executive Director of the German American Partnership Program, said that organization has never seen a friendship that has lasted as long as the one between Norfolk Academy and Copernicus-Gymnasium. She presented a plaque commemorating this bond.

Among the other highlights of the night was a prerecorded speech from retired Norfolk Academy German Teacher Katherine Holmes, who along with CGL's Jürgen Wiehe, helped found the exchange in 1973.

“It has been a great relationship for 50 years, and I am so proud of all of the people and teachers and institutions that have made it so wonderful," Holmes said.

Kadyn Johnson-Smith '23, who went on the exchange to Germany last year, said he was nervous before leaving Norfolk, not exactly sure what was in store. However, he quickly felt right at home with his homestay family, just as Copernicus-Gymnasium students are feeling during their current visit to Norfolk.

“The German exchange brought me unforgettable memories," he said.

Kadyn introduced another highlight of the night, a concert specially composed for the 50th anniversary celebration by renowned composer Stephen Melillo. Directed by NA's Cheney Doane and CGL's Philipp Hemmen, the performance showcased the love our two schools hold for one another, a love accentuated by remarks from Chris Nelson and Elisabeth Rüve, both longtime directors of the exchange.

Mr. Nelson, who has been helping lead NA travels to Germany for more than 30 years, spoke about the value of the homestay and the growth he sees students make in the weeks of their visit.

Rüve summarized what so many others said during the night: “This special program has changed the world for the better."

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