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Blackfriars immersed in Chicago exchange


What started as a water polo exchange between two Dominican schools separated by the Pacific Ocean has endured the test of time and is now set to expand to include other sporting pursuits.

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In 1992 the first group of Blackfriars Priory School students visited fellow Dominican school Fenwick High in Chicago as part of an international water polo tour.

Little did both schools realise that 27 years later the tradition would continue and is now providing the catalyst for exchanges in other sports.

“It has long been said that ‘from small acorns doth giant oak trees grow’ and so it is with Blackfriars and Fenwick,” said Blackfriars development officer Jon Harmer, who has been the school’s water polo coach for the past 40 years.

Since the first exchange, there have been numerous visits between the two water polo groups, as well as student and staff exchanges.

In 2016 the exchange was particularly special as it was the celebration of 800 years of the Dominican Order. At that time the two schools agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to formalise the ‘sister school’ relationship. Discussions this year have resulted in other pursuits now likely to be part of future exchanges.

Mr Harmer said the 2019 water polo exchange took place earlier this year when eight Year 8-10 Blackfriars boys were hosted by their Fenwick counterparts for three weeks.

“In a wonderful coincidence, on their first day at the Chicago school they attended an assembly where legendary Fenwick water polo coach Dave Perry was inducted into the Hall of Fame,” he said.

Coach Perry and Mr Harmer first met in 1992 and were the catalysts for establishing the exchange program between the two schools.

During this year’s exchange the Blackfriars boys were “immersed” in water polo training in the mornings, followed by attending class with their host “brothers” most school days.

On weekends and excursion days they were fortunate to attend baseball, hockey and NBA games. The boys also toured ‘Downtown’ Chicago, taking in sightseeing opportunities and shopping on Michigan Avenue.

In June, the Fenwick host brothers returned to Adelaide, giving the Blackfriars families the opportunity to reciprocate with their ‘Aussie’ hospitality.

Aside from school days at Blackfriars, the Chicago students attended Crows and Power AFL games, were guests of the City of Prospect at a North Adelaide football game, tested their skills surfing at Middleton Beach, visited the Cleland Wildlife Park and also got to try SA’s famous pie floater.


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