Western Washington University’s Extended Education Youth Program is once again hosting a three-week visit by 20 students, grades 4-6, from Cheongju, Korea; the students arrived at Western in mid-July to attend Odyssey of Science and Arts Camps and ESL cultural classes.
During the first week of August the students will leave campus and travel across town weekday mornings to the Whatcom Boys and Girls Club for community experiences with local youth.
“I am hoping it exposes our local children to a different culture and that they will get to see that kids are kids. This is how we change the world – it’s all about the power of knowing who people are,” said Kim Grams, the chief operating officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County. “I would love to keep it going even after they get home – lots of possibilities, from pen pals to Skype. It’s really exciting!”
Boys and Girls Club and Western instructional staff aim to offer structured activities to help break the ice. An earthquake simulation machine and Red Cross preparedness exercise are planned as well as a fun dance party featuring pop favorites from the U.S. and Korea. Grams said 20 local club members grades 5-7 will attend daily to partner with their new friends from overseas.
Debbie Gibbons, manager of Youth Programs at Western, describes the joint programming as a fun and unique way to build community and understanding through friendships.
“The kids will take turns sharing from their different cultures. They will exchange experiences through food, games, and songs. We are working together to make it social and recreational fun,” said Gibbons.
A tour of the children’s library at the Bellingham Public Library is set for Aug.4 followed by a visit to Mayor Kelli Linville’s office for a reception at City Hall co-hosted with the Bellingham Sister City Association. Cheongju Youth will return to Korea on Saturday, Aug. 5.