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Governor recognizes Chinese language students following study abroad program

Continuing his push to advance language learning opportunities for Delaware youth, Governor Markell recognized the 20 high schoolers who spent part of their summer this year learning in Hangzhou, China, thanks to a free summer abroad program for students studying Mandarin. During a reception at fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy in Newark yesterday, the students displayed their final projects from the inaugural Delaware Summer Chinese Language Initiative for Communicating STEM (LInCS) program – a partnership between the State and Wanxiang Group, China’s largest auto parts manufacturer.


Projects addressed American and Chinese perspectives on green energy solutions, Chinese language skills as an advantage for college and career options, and ideas on how to facilitate cooperation and collaboration after exploring cultural difference between the United States and China.


Coinciding with the first state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Governor also recognized 10 students who will become ambassadors for the study of Chinese and for study abroad opportunities for students nationwide. Earlier this month, the Delaware Department of Education was selected as a “Signature Partner” by the 100K Strong Foundation, which was created to increase the number and diversity of Americans studying in China. The nonprofit's goal is to ensure that the next generation of Americans is equipped to engage effectively with China, a major global power and the United States’ fastest growing trade partner.


“It’s clear that these students took full advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to expand their science and math skills while improving their Mandarin proficiency and gaining an appreciation for the value of understanding multiple languages in today’s global economy,” Markell said. “I continue to believe we should strive for making Delaware the most bilingual state in the country, and this program has proven to be an effective step in pursuing that goal.”


In January, Markell signed an agreement with representatives of Wanxiang Group for students to study at the company’s facility in Hangzhou. Over four weeks this summer, the students took daily language classes, visited local schools, participated in cultural activities and toured sites of science and technology companies. Wanxiang provided a $450,000 grant to fund study abroad sessions in 2015 and 2016 for up to 24 students and four teachers participating each year.


The students chronicled their travel through photos and blog entries, sharing details of their adventures and learning.


Through daily lessons and immersion in the language, they improved their fluency, even using their language skills to interview local residents on the street for a project. They visited local landmarks, learning more about the culture and history of the area. Lessons ranged from a seminar on biofuels and geothermal energy to Chinese paper cutting and dough sculpting as they were immersed in the science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) fields as well as the Chinese culture.


"My experience in China was amazing. It was incredible to be immersed in the culture, experiencing and learning the lifestyle of a different country," said Xander Opiyo, a senior at Conrad Schools of Science. "I have been studying Chinese for three years and my proficiency in the language has substantially improved from being forced to break the language barrier in China. We also learned a lot about how another country is working on developing renewable energy, solar power, and other technology, not just from books but seeing demonstrations, which was a great way to better understand it."


“This trip was an eye-opening experience and an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the world around us,” said Caleb Siebach, a senior from Caesar Rodney. “We learned a lot not just about the language and the subjects we were taught, but also about ourselves.”


“The best part of the trip was the international exposure and learning how international affairs affect me,” said Trevor Roe, a junior from Sussex Tech. “The cultural immersion was a fantastic learning experience and showed the doors that can open in your life when you can converse in another language.”


Applications for the 2016 program are due in March, and students will be chosen in April. Participants will depart in late June.


World Language Immersion in Delaware


The study abroad opportunity for high school students builds on other work by the Markell Administration to improve language learning in Delaware schools. More than 2300 students in kindergarten through third grade are participating in world language immersion this year, meaning they learn half of their subjects in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. This is the fourth year of the initiative, which adds schools and grade levels each year and currently has 16 programs at schools throughout the state.


2015 LInCS participants (ambassadors’ names bolded):


AI duPont High School, Red Clay Consolidated School District

Jake Borns


Appoquinimink High School, Appoquinimink School District

Jeffrey Smith


Caesar Rodney High School, Caesar Rodney School District

Gary Gray II                       

Landon Lynn

Caleb Siebach

Sarah Wearden

Jared York


Conrad Schools of Science, Red Clay Consolidated School District

Zachary Black

Madison Northshield

Xander Opiyo   

Fidel Rodriguez

Sean Sullivan

Jianni Thornton


Middletown High School, Appoquinimink School District

Nathaniel Li       


Newark Charter High School

Sophia Hannah

Santoshi Kandula            

Ravina Sashti     


Sussex Technical High School, Sussex Technical School District

Vincent Gao      

Robert O'Neill

Trevor Roe

Alison May
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