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Beijing Students' Mamaroneck Visit Offers Cultural Exchange

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Senior Tony Hong translated Mamaroneck Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Shaps' welcome to the students of Beijing 101 High School, who visited Mamaroneck High School Friday afternoon.

Hong, 18, saw the script for the first time Friday and didn't know it was only in English, forcing him to translate on the fly. The senior's surprising scenario was emblematic of the trip's purpose, to bring students from both schools out of their comfort zone in an authentic learning environment.

"It was very exciting and I'm very happy to see them all here," Hong said. "It's a good opportunity for us."

About 35 students and 20 teachers and administrators from Beijing 101 High School explored the MHS hallways for the first time. Each year, the school organizes a trip to the United States through the EPE Group , a non-profit that helps establish sister school partnerships with schools in the U.S. and China. They have selected New Rochelle and White Plains in past years. This year, they chose Croton and Mamaroneck.

"I think the Chinese teachers will be so thrilled to find out how we do our teaching here," said Michelle Liu, one of the Chinese teachers at MHS who helped organize the event. "I've told the students this is a golden opportunity to use their best Chinese to communicate with our visitors."

Lyra Harada, 16, is one of MHS's 150 students studying Chinese , and one of approximately 90 who participated in Friday's activities, which included student performances in both languages, a student-led tour, roundtable discussions and presentations, and collaborative art projects. Students and teachers concluded the day by breaking bread together in the cafeteria, before saying goodbye

"I don't think a lot of students have had the chance to talk to native speakers," said Harada, who also performed a song with the juniors. "It's definitely an honor. My friends are all excited to use our Chinese and to show them that we love China."

Each grade level performed at least one song, except for the seniors, who primarily helped organize the event. However, Ilana Gratch, a senior, couldn't resist helping the juniors sing her favorite song, "Lao Shu Ai Da Mi," which means "I Love You Like A Mouse Loves Rice."

Other seniors, like Scott Sandler, 17, gave students a tour of the school.

Mamaroneck's Chinese program has visited China eight times since it began in 1988, but has had trouble finding a school to host them because, according to Liu, students in China are under a lot of pressure to pass their entrance exams and don't have time for much else.

"It's our hope that this may lead to a sister school partnership that will be helpful to us in the future," Liu said. "If we host them this time, then hopefully they'll be willing to host us next time."

While addressing the audience packed into the tiered classroom, Ni Ping, of Beijing 101 High School, indicated that a partnership may be possible going forward.

"We believe this trip will help us know each other more," Ping said, with the help of a translator. "I hope we can have an opportunity to welcome you in our school very soon."

Watch the Beijing students perform " Jingle Bells " and a traditional Chinese song on our Youtube Channel.

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