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Highland welcomes guests from China

1/24/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

The 15 students from Nanwu High School and their three chaperones who arrived from Guangzhou, China, Jan. 19 were welcomed at a breakfast by Highland High School Principal Dana Addis, shown in the top row, far right, as well as host families, other Highland staff and students.
From left, Highland student Madeline Bigley, Nanwu student Xuanxuan Tang and Chinese chaperone Tao (Vivian) Huan are shown as they mingle over breakfast at Highland High School.
Photos courtesy of Highland Local School District
GRANGER — Fifteen students and three adults from Nanwu High School in Guangzhou, China, arrived Jan. 19 to begin a two-week visit with their sister school, Highland High School.

After landing at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Saturday morning, their first stop was the school for a welcome breakfast held by host families, Highland staff and students.

The relationship with Nanwu came about through Highland’s Mandarin Chinese language teacher, Yang “Sunny” Zhang, according to Highland High School Principal Dana Addis.

Zhang, who was born in China, is in her fourth year teaching at Highland High School. She had a connection to a couple of teachers at Nanwu who expressed an interest in expanding their relationship with Highland, he said.

“Mrs. Zhang thought that developing a relationship with a sister school in China would help strengthen the students’ desire to learn about its language and culture,” he said.

The 15 Highland families who are hosting Nanwu students and their adult chaperones all jumped at the opportunity, according to Addis. When the district posted an announcement on its website that the group from China would be visiting, it took less than 24 hours for the maximum number of host families needed to volunteer, he added.

The group’s itinerary includes visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art, Terminal Tower, The University of Akron (specifically, the finance and polymer science buildings), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Hard Rock Café. Plans also include a visit to the Medina County Career Center. On Feb. 1, the day before they leave, the students and chaperones will be recognized at a high school basketball game.

During the school day, Nanwu students will get to experience a day in the life of a Highland student, including class time and extracurricular activities.

Addis and four Highland High School teachers also will travel to Guangzhou from March 28 through April 7. That group includes science teacher Chris Luker, social studies teacher Chris Kestner and English teachers Tracy Goebel and Bruce Folkerth. The trip was made possible through a $5,000 grant from The Highland Foundation for Educational Excellence, said Addis.

Nanwu High School also has offered to pay for lodging, ground transportation and food for the group while they are in China, while the teachers and Addis are each responsible for about $240 in airfare and the cost of their visas, he added.

The four teachers were chosen through an application process that included answering how they would take the experience and bring it back to the school district for the betterment of students and the community, said Addis.

“Having a sister school provides many amazing opportunities for both Nanwu and Highland students,” he said. “Through this new-found relationship, students will be able to engage one another through video exchanges, cultural activities and world projects.

“During our visit, we want to learn about their student-centered classrooms, their philosophy on homework, their assessment techniques and their overall school environments,” he added.

In the future, Highland students may get to visit their sister school in China, too, though there are no immediate plans, according to Addis.

The partnership is still in exploratory mode right now, he said, and he would like to see the two schools connect in a way that will provide service to and benefit a third entity.

“Ideas are going to be born during these first couple of visits,” he said. “I am confident that students at Nanwu and Highland will make a lasting impact on one another.”

A Facebook page has been set up so that students and community members can stay updated on the progress of the trip to China and the students’ visit at www.facebook.com/HHSTeamChina.

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