Sabrina Simpson became interested in the Chinese culture in elementary school when her teacher led the class in a celebration of the Chinese New Year. When Simpson went on to enroll in Lindblom Math and Science Academy high school she was excited that it offered Chinese as a foreign language option.
But Simpson’s fondness for Chinese customs and traditions received the ultimate boost this school year when it was announced that she was among several Lindblom students chosen to visit and study in the southeast Asian country. This summer, Simpson, 17, is going to Beijing, China!
The six Lindblom students and ones from Walter Payton College Prep high school will be going to China for a special study abroad program under President Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative. The program relies on public-private funding partnerships and the Motorola Mobility Foundation will help pay for the Chicago Public Schools students to participate in this six-week summer program. The trip was organized by Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA), and will include Mandarin language study, engagement with Chinese culture, community service and an exploration of international job opportunities.
The 100,000 Strong Initiative is designed to help boost the number and diversity over the next five years of U.S. students who study in China, according to the U.S. Department of State. Officials there point out that 10 times more Chinese students study in the U.S. than American students study in China. Also, more Chinese study English than Americans study Mandarin (the official name of the language).
Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered the students high praise.
“Our students are already leading the nation as learners of this important global language, and we are pleased that many will have a chance to take those language skills to the next level through a summer immersion experience in China,” he said. “This program will provide life-changing opportunities for Chicago-area high school students. Many kids only dream about traveling to a different country to live and learn. The 100,000 Strong Initiative will help turn dream into reality.”
CPS offers Mandarin language instruction as part of its curriculum at 25 elementary schools and 23 high schools.
“It was this or Arabic,” Jamauri Tylon said about signing up for Chinese I. Now after three years of studying the language, he’s going to put it to real-world practice.
The 17-year-old Lindblom junior is packing his bags and, for the first time in his life, is preparing to go out of the country – over 6,000 miles to China’s capital city. Tylon, who lives in the Beverly community, said he has wanted to go to China to experience firsthand the language and culture that he has been studying. He was almost content with it just being on his to-do list.
“But when I actually got a chance (to go to China) I was blown away,” he said.
DeShun Peoples, 16, is planning for a career in politics and law that also dabbles in international affairs. He plans to study multiple languages in college and is already looking forward to taking Advanced Placement (AP) Chinese at Lindblom. For him, going to China is a culmination of his coursework so far and a natural “next step.”
“This trip will expose me to a different country and different culture,” said Peoples, who added that he would have sought an exchange program on his own if this opportunity had not arisen.
Having six students represent the school in China has elated the school staff and administration. Hayley Herford is chair of Lindblom’s World Language Department and teaches Chinese. Though she won’t be going with her students to Beijing, she is elated for them.
“This opportunity is amazing,” she said. “It’s the best part of my job.”
Herford speaks highly of the school’s program, which is one of the largest in CPS, she said. The school offers Chinese and Arabic, languages Herford admits are two of the more difficult foreign languages to master but ones that can be rewarding when students’ do.
“It gives them a different sense of confidence,” she said.
The student are looking forward to the community service they will participate in while in Beijing including helping Chinese students there to learn English. Other Lindblom students participating in the cultural learning program this summer are Alejandra Diaz, Karen Guadarrama and Brian Chaidez.
“Just being able to get the experience of it all” is awesome, said Simpson.
By Rhonda Gillespie