From one China trip, many voices

Posted at 11:12 AM on Sep 15, 2017

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STORY BY KARISSA MILLER
Photos Courtesy of Olivia Watson/Lake Norman High School.

An Iredell-Statesville Schools summer program is helping bridge the cultural gap between China and the United States – and bringing students in different parts of the county closer together.

A group of I-SS students took part in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China this summer as part of the school district’s partnership with Tower Bridge International. Seven students and 11 adults went on the all-expenses-paid trip.

“We’re building long term friendships across the board,” said local TBI coordinator Teresa Kutteh. “A kid from North (Iredell) may never meet a kid from Lake Norman in normal circumstances, except at a football game, but then are you going to be on the same side?”

Taking a great group of kids to China and seeing how receptive they were to the experience was a very enjoyable experience, Kutteh said.

Students immerse themselves in China’s culture for two weeks, which enabled them to gain an international perspective and a small taste of travel. The goal of the program is to help participants gain a global worldview.

The Search for Cultural Power China Tour 2017 included visits in the northeastern city of Beijing and the city of Jining, which is located in the southwestern area of Shandong province along the eastern coast of China.

Participants had the opportunity to meet Chinese students and do some sightseeing of historic places, such as the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

Students shared their thoughts on the experience and made a presentation to the school board August meeting:

“One of my favorite parts about the cultural exchange experience was the time spent at the Jining International Confucius School,” said Taylor Kastor, a South Iredell High School senior in the IB program.

“China to me means not just a label on a T-shirt or on a jacket, it means amazing culture filled with love, kindness and a high-education lifestyle,” said Raegan Richards, a North Iredell High junior.

“One thing that stuck with me and always will is so many people asked to take pictures with me because of the pigment of my skin … one thing I found flattering is how so many people came up to me and asked if this was my real hair (talking about his afro) …. as you can see, I brought cultural experiences and gained some as well. One day I want to travel back to China,” said Kenneth Fletcher III, a super senior at Crossroads Arts and Science early college.

“It was really life changing,” said Olivia Watson, a senior at Lake Norman who put together a video of the trip that she played for the board.

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