Auburn High School and Thurgood Marshall School will host students from China through Feb. 9 for a cultural exchange program. The first group of students arrived Saturday from Shiyan Middle School and High School in Liaoning Province, China, and more students will arrive today. In all, more than 40 students will visit Rockford: 26 at Marshall and 17 at Auburn, plus four teachers from Shiyan and four staff from Modern Counseling International in China. Chinese students will partner with students in the Gifted Academy at Marshall and Auburn, and the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) Program at Auburn.
This cultural exchange offers global experiences. “This shared international cultural experience will, I hope, bring students from both countries a sense of understanding and empathy,” said Thurgood Marshall School Principal Jill Faber. “I hope to see students relate to each other, even though they live on opposite sides of the world.”
Staff at Auburn and Marshall began exploring plans last year to offer Mandarin Chinese. The goal to offer RPS 205 students a global education has inspired both schools to develop a popular International Club for students at Marshall and Auburn, where students are learning Mandarin Chinese. Marshall will offer a Multi-Language Lab course in sixth grade next school year that will include Mandarin Chinese. Staff plan to extend that course for seventh and eighth grades in the following years, in addition to offering Mandarin Chinese at Auburn. “This cultural exchange is a way to engage our students in the development of global perspectives and global competencies that support our World-Class mission,” said Auburn Principal Janice Hawkins.
Chinese students are looking forward to experiencing American culture; much of their expectations are based on the Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” movies. Students will ride the bus to school, eat lunch in the school cafeteria, and shadow students during their classes and activities. They’ll cheer for the Auburn Knights at the boys basketball game Friday, Feb. 2. Students will also tour the Rockford Register Star, visit City Hall and meet Mayor Tom McNamara, and dine at Owly Oop Sports Pub at the UW Health Sports Factory downtown – all part of what organizers are calling “Rockford Day” on Thursday, Feb. 8.
Maggie Kasicki, Vice President of Advancement at China-based Modern Counseling International, is facilitating the partnership. Kasicki coordinates Chinese exchange student experiences at the college level, and lives in Rockford. The company will sponsor RPS 205 staff during a visit to China this summer to continue to develop the partnership. “This cultural exchange program is a great opportunity for students to learn from each other and share firsthand,” Kasicki said. “There is nothing like experiencing it.”
Events for media coverage*:
- 8-9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30: Welcome breakfast at Thurgood Marshall School
- 8:45-9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31: International Club meeting at Thurgood Marshall School; Chinese students will teach American students calligraphy.
- 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1: International Club meeting at Auburn High School that will include China vs. United States trivia
- 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1: Luncheon for teachers from China, plus RPS 205 teachers and administrators at Prairie Street Brewhouse
*Media: Please contact Cathy Bayer to RSVP and for additional coverage opportunities not listed.