By Martha Bowles
Ten years ago Dr. John Faulkenberry of the Lee’s Summit R7 School District developed an exchange program with Chang’an School No 1 in Xi’an, China. Since that time students from Chang’an No 1 and Lee’s Summit have had the opportunity to experience each others lives and culture. At the beginning of each year, students and teachers from China travel to the United States. They visit California, Washington DC, and New York as tourists but the highlight of their trip is a week long stay in the homes of Lee’s Summit R7 students and teachers.
On January 26, 14 Chinese students and 3 teachers were greeted at the Kansas City International Airport by the smiling faces of their Lee’s Summits hosts, representing each of the Lee’s Summit area high schools and middle schools.
After a brief orientation and get to know you session at Bernard Campbell Middle School, they were welcomed into the homes of their host families.
The week was filled with visits to area attractions, experiencing local fun activities, attending classes with their host students, and getting a taste of home life with their host families. Some of their activities included seeing a bit of our area history at the Truman Library, visiting local government, seeing how we keep our citizens safe with the police and fire departments, releasing some energy at Sky Zone, bowling, having fun at Paradise Park, roller skating, and having a ping pong tournament. In addition to area attractions, students got to enjoy different types of American food such as hamburgers delivered by train, BBQ, Chinese (American style), and home cooking.
School sports are not available at their school in China so it was a treat for them to be able to see things like school basketball games or play indoor tennis with their host student. Some also choose to see some high school talent at the Bronco Smart Talent Show.
At the end of the week, after a whirlwind experience, one thing was clear. Although they come from a different country with different customs and lifestyles, they are ultimately like us in many ways and those participating in the program gained a better understanding of others in our world.
For five of the host students and five faculty members of the Lee’s Summit schools the adventure has just begun.
On March 7, they will be heading to China to explore the culture of their new friends. They will visit areas of China and also stay with a Chinese host family for a short time.