Harrison Elementary School Principal Lee Snider (back row, far left) poses Thursday morning for a group photo with the 24 students and teachers Wenfa Yu (back row, second from left) and Shuyu Luo (back row, far right) from Shengli Primary School, Hangzhou, China. The students in the back row are holding up the Shengli school flag. The banner in the front row says, ‘2014 Hangzhou Shengli Elementary School Exchange Summer Camp.’ Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Harrison Elementary School Principal Lee Snider (back row, far left) poses Thursday morning for a group photo with the 24 students and teachers Wenfa Yu (back row, second from left) and Shuyu Luo (back row, far right) from Shengli Primary School, Hangzhou, China. The students in the back row are holding up the Shengli school flag. The banner in the front row says, ‘2014 Hangzhou Shengli Elementary School Exchange Summer Camp.’ Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Students and staff at Harrison Elementary School met 24 students and three teachers from their Chinese sister school Thursday morning during assembly.
The guests are from Shengli Primary School in Hangzhou (Indianapolis’ sister city), the capital of Zhejiang Province (Indiana’s sister state) in China, according to Chinese Education Connection LLC Director of Operation Phil Boley. Indiana Governor Robert Orr began the sister-state relationship with Zhejiang in 1987.
CEC organized the trip for the children to come to the U.S. and visit Harrison during their trip. Harrison teacher Deb McClintock visited China and the school there two years ago with Boley’s former organization, Global Indiana. “She signed a memorandum of understanding to form the sister school,” Boley said.
The school children and staff have been in the States a week. They visited the East Coast, including New York and Washington, D.C., before staying in a hotel in Warsaw Wednesday night. Thursday and tonight, they are staying with host families.
Most of the students are fifth-graders, but some are sixth-graders, Boley said.
“It is an intercultural experience,” he said. “They have very different lives from the American children. They all live in apartments that are two to three rooms. They may be wealthy, but there is little room. Some have bigger apartments. They are in a very urban area,” Boley said.
The population of Zhejiang is more than 54 million people.
“The goal is to improve their English and for American kids to learn about China and that there is a whole world out there American kids don’t really know about,” he said. “There are 1.3 billion people in China. That’s a number the kids can’t wrap their head around.”
Jessica Yu, president of Chinese Education Connection, came from China to the United States 14 years ago and now lives in Indiana.
She said all you had to do was look at the kids to see their excitement at visiting Harrison.
“They love it,” she said.
During the convocation, Harrison Principal Lee Snider said the guest students would spend the day in the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. Today they would visit every single classroom.
With the help of a translator, Shengli teacher Wenfa Yu wished everyone a good morning.
“We are very excited to be here and participate in your classes,” he said. “We look forward to being with the host families and learning about your culture.”
Some of the students woke up at 5 a.m. Thursday because they couldn’t wait to be at Harrison, he said. He said they were honored to meet the mayor and other representatives of Warsaw Wednesday.
He thanked Snider for working to make the visit happen, and former Harrison Principal and School Board Secretary Randy Polston for being the group’s tour guide of Grace College and City of Warsaw Wednesday. He extended his appreciation to the host families.
Yu explained that their school started in 1599. The first class started on a fishing boat on West Lake. He said their school is not as big as Harrison, but it has more than 1,000 students.
“We welcome you to visit our school and country,” he said.
Snider told the Harrison students that he had gifts for each student and teachers, and a gift for them to give to their school for all to see. McClintock helped present the gifts and thanked Snider for championing the sister school relationship.
After the presentation, Snider thanked Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert for his support in the endeavor and the classroom teachers for being willing to make it work.
The Chinese guests then presented Harrison with a flag from their school.
After the school assembly, Snider said, “We just think this is a great example of living our mission statement of Warsaw Schools. We’re enriching the lives of our students and guests. They’re getting to experience culture in the world. Since Warsaw is a global marketplace, this is a start to setting their mindset of things happening around the world.”