Building community from a distance through the LIVE initiative


Caterina Pye '23

Sacred Heart LIVE connects network students internationally.

The Sacred Heart Greenwich Network Exchange program restricted student travels abroad during the 2020-2021 school year under COVID-19 safety procedures.  Because of these restrictions, Ms. Krista Hinton, Spanish Teacher and Exchange Program Coordinator at Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton, established Sacred Heart Language and International Virtual Exchange (LIVE) for students worldwide to converse with each other over Zoom.  Juniors Olivia Caponiti, Jenny DiCapua, Gigi Gazal, Emma Neary, Caterina Pye, Gabi Pye, and Karina Sethi participate in the inaugural year of this program.

Exchange students from around the world discuss their holiday celebrations.  Olivia Caponiti ’23

As the coronavirus pandemic temporarily ended the exchange program, Ms. Hinton endeavored to virtually connect Sacred Heart schools.  She explained that her initial idea was for students to share experiences surrounding coronavirus.  As Sacred Heart LIVE developed, it became a program where students share their respective cultures and create international friendships.

“About a year ago, one of my students reached out to me and thought it would be really interesting to form a virtual group where students could meet from around the network of Sacred Heart schools to share their experiences of the pandemic,” Ms. Hinton said.  “We agreed that we were both feeling so overwhelmed by the numbers and news stories and that having the opportunity for personal connection with someone on the other side of the world with someone experiencing the same thing, although perhaps in a slightly different way, would be really awesome.  To our great pleasure, it was a great success and we formed a group of about 60 students from interested schools.  We met weekly, shared favorite recipes, played games, and made international friends.  We expanded the program this year to be something that would fit in the new context of students being back on their school campuses and expanded it to include over 200 students from around the world.”

Every month, students from Sacred Heart Greenwich virtually meet with Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, California, Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City, New York, and Sacred Heart Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  They also meet with the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo, Japan, the Obayashi Sacred Heart School in Takarazuka, Japan, the Fuji Sacred Heart School in Susono, Japan, the Sacred Heart Girls High School in Taipei, Taiwan, and Guadalajara Sacred Heart School in Zapopan, Mexico. 

These Zoom meetings center around specific conversation topics.  Sacred Heart LIVE held its first meeting in October, where participants conversed about their local communities and everyday life.  In November, they shared about their respective schools and traditions.  Most recently, in January, students discussed holiday traditions after the new year began. 

Students can use the application Band to keep in touch between zoom meetings.  Olivia Caponiti ’23

Even though the meetings are monthly, the participants can also communicate through a separate application called Band.  Students from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Mexico share posts with the group, send photos, converse, and create events.

The purpose of Sacred Heart LIVE is to strengthen the international Network of the Sacred Heart Schools, increase students’ cultural awareness, further knowledge of diverse perspectives, and help develop students’ understanding of themselves and others.  Gigi explained how this program encouraged her to become more culturally competent.

“I think that this program helped increase my awareness of cultural practices because it allows me to interact with students from places that I have never visited and, as a result, do not know much about,” Gigi said.  “Not only did this program teach me about different holidays and various cultural practices, but it also emphasized the values that all Sacred Heart students share around the world.”

As students communicate with one another individually, Ms. Hinton believes that they will benefit from engaging beyond the intended monthly conversations.

“It has been very rewarding to hear that students are connecting with each other and sharing life experiences and perspectives on the various topics we’ve explored together.  From my understanding, the language exchange groups are working pretty well.” Ms. Hinton said.  “I think one of my favorite new elements is the way we have been able to connect by sharing videos, photos, and updates in our Band group.  I love seeing what students share and hope that even more students choose to share on this platform in the final months of this year’s program.  I also love anything that is student-initiated, so I hope to hear from students on how they want this program to evolve.”

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23