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An exchange of ideas, cultures

Five Asian students attending Heritage Academy this school year

September 19, 2010|By JANET HEIM

It's a win-win situation for all involved. Heritage Academy students, teachers and host families are exposed to other cultures, while Asian students get to study and live in the United States, experiencing American culture firsthand.

This school year, for the first time, the private Christian school is hosting exchange students, arranged by an organization called the Center of Cultural Interchange.

There are five high school students - one from China, two from Korea and two from Taiwan. The four boys and one girl were selected from a pool of applicants, all eager to see what life in America is like.

"They begged and pleaded to come to America ... They really wanted the cultural experience," Hunter Powell, principal of Heritage Academy, said of their application essays.

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In return, Powell said the experience has reminded him and his staff of opportunities in the United States that are taken for granted by those who live here.

"It's opened our eyes to what's available here," Powell said.

Powell said Heritage high school students have gone on a spring break mission trip to Mexico for the past several years. The seniors take a mission trip together in May, most recently to Peru, "to see what God is doing someplace else."

His hope is that hosting exchange students this year will open doors for Heritage students.

For now, the focus is on helping the exchange students adjust to an English-speaking learning environment. Powell said that while the students speak fairly good English, they have a hard time interpreting it when it is spoken quickly.

The five students have mentors assigned to them in every class and homeroom to ease the transition. Powell said it's been great to see the interchange between the students, and he has enjoyed watching the care and patience the Heritage students have shown their new classmates.

Powell said they will be planning opportunities to share the foods and traditional clothing of the exchange students' home countries.

"There are a lot of things to learn about their cultures," said Powell, who hopes the exchange will become an annual opportunity.

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