WEST ORANGE, NJ — Six exchange students from the Hangzhou Foreign Language School in China were formally welcomed to West Orange High School on Feb. 11 for a one-week visit accompanied by their teacher and chaperone, Liang Chen.
In 2010, the Asia Society and Hanban, the Central Chinese Education Committee, selected the Chinese program of the West Orange Public Schools as a member of the first cohort of 20 Confucius Classrooms in the United States. The mission of the Confucius Classroom is to serve as a model program in Chinese instruction. This year, West Orange has more than 220 students enrolled in classes from level one through Advanced Placement in Chinese language and culture.
In addition to the instruction of the language, Asia Society and Hanban work to facilitate exchange opportunities through the Partner School Program. This marks the sixth year that West Orange High School has participated in this program with a student exchange.
A welcome breakfast was held for visitors and host students in the Tarnoff Cafe. They were greeted by district administrators including Assistant Superintendent Donna Rando, Assistant Principal Kimberly Mancarella, Athletic Director Ron Bligh and World Language/ESL K-12 Department Supervisor Mary Quiroz. WOHS Chinese teacher Yajing Li was also present, along with Dana Peart, WOHS French instructor.
Mancarella was presented with a silk scroll, a gift from the Asia Society and Hanban, decorated with a Chinese character noting “good fortune.” Bligh presented the visitors with gifts on behalf of the school district, including T-shirts, varsity letters and pins from the West Orange High School Athletic Department.
The visiting students experienced a day in the life of an American student as they shadowed their host students at the high school for the entire day. That weekend, host families and students participated in various activities that included attending a basketball game, Valentine’s Day party, ice skating at Codey Arena, visiting Columbia and Princeton universities, and enjoying tourist sights in New York City. They also spent a day visiting Washington, D.C.
During the 2014-2015 school year, 15 WOHS students visited China during spring break. Besides touring Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai, they participated in activities on the Hangzhou Foreign Languages School campus. WOHS students shadowed their host students in their classes and assembled with senior students to discuss teen interests such as sports, study abroad and music. Students of both schools enjoyed cooking and playing basketball together. They also put on a concert in which they sang pop songs for each other. WOHS students received lessons on Chinese folk songs and arts from the school music and art teachers. On the weekend, each student went home with a host student to experience authentic home life.
The visitors returned to China on Feb. 18. West Orange High School Chinese language students will visit the Hangzhou Foreign Languages School in China in April 2017 during spring break.