October 21, 2011
Duc Chu, a resident of Vietnam and a senior at The College of Wooster, was one of three international students from Wooster's Ambassadors Program to speak with students at Northwestern Middle School on Multicultural and Diversity Day last week.
WOOSTER, Ohio – For 342 students at Northwestern Middle School, last week’s Multicultural and Diversity Day was an eye-opening experience. In a district where the enrollment is 99 percent white non-Hispanic, diversity is an unfamiliar concept, but Rachel Beun, the guidance counselor at the school sought to change that.
“I felt it was important for our students to have an awareness of what they will encounter when they leave here,” said Beun. “They need to experience the customs and cultures of different racial and ethnic groups in our country and around the world.”
So Beun lined up a variety of guests, including three international students from The College of Wooster, to talk about their experiences, and the outcome was everything Beun had hoped for.
“It went very well,” she said. “I heard the students talking excitedly as they went from one (30-minute) session to another. We really appreciate The College of Wooster's participation.”
Representing Wooster were Duc Chu, a senior from Vietnam, Annie Godonoga, a sophomore from Moldova, and Jubilate Lema, a sophomore from Tanzania — all members of Wooster’s Ambassadors Program, which consists of international students chosen to represent their country and share their culture with audiences on campus and in the community. Now in its 10th year, the program has reached more than 21,000 people through events and initiatives on campus, in the community, and throughout the region.
Chu wore a red t-shirt with “I Love Vietnam” emblazoned in bright yellow letters on the front during his presentations, which featured segments on art, language, clothing, education, and food.
The 22 students in Mr. Hafner’s class seemed deeply engaged — literally sitting on the edges of their chairs — as Chu told them that his country is smaller than the state of New Mexico, but that the population is 45 times larger (90 million). He also shared samples of water paintings and puppets as well as items of clothing, which several of the students tried on. In addition, he talked about education and currency and various Vietnamese delicacies, but the most popular part of his presentation was his mini-course on language, including how to say “Hello” (Xin Chào), and that there are 10 different ways to say “I love you.”
“Our students really liked (the presentations),” said Hafner. “The international students did a very good job sharing their culture.”
After the sessions, the middle school students participated in a “mix-it-up” session during the lunch period, where they took time to discuss what they had experienced and then develop action plans for overcoming stereotyping, prejudice, and racism.
“The program really got the students thinking about what it's like to be ‘different’ in some way,” said Nicola Kille, assistant director for Global Engagement at The College of Wooster and director of Wooster’s Ambassadors Program. “They talked about how to treat all people with respect, and how people with varied backgrounds and life experiences can bring creativity and new perspectives to our daily interactions. Rachel (Beun) and Northwestern Middle School should be commended for an excellent event. The Ambassadors Program was proud to be part of it.”
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