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East Los Angeles Charter School Students Arrive from China Marking the First Cultural Exch

by Gerardo Felix Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008 at 7:09 AM
gfelix@dignidad.org 323)225-4549 4736 Huntington Drive South Los Angeles CA 90032

East Los Angeles Charter School Students Arrive from China Marking the First Cultural Exchange Delegation in History between Los Angeles and China Sister Schools, Anahuacalmecac Completes First Trip to China as Part of Unprecedented Sister School Alliance

(LOS ANGELES, Calif.) August 4, 2008 - Today students from the entering ninth grade class of Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory High School of North America ("Anahuacalmecac"), a public charter high school opening this September in East Los Angeles, arrived from participating in the first student cultural exchange delegation between Los Angeles and China sister schools in history. Thirteen Anahuacalmecac students and several teachers visited sister school, Guangqumen Middle School, one of the top middle schools in Beijing, to deliver L.A.U.S.D.'s recognition of the sister school relationship and finally meet Chinese students they corresponded with throughout the school year while attending Anahuacalmecac's middle school complement, Academia Semillas del Pueblo ("Semillas"), a successful and highly innovative community-based k - 8th grade public charter school in East Los Angeles.

"What fascinates us most about China is what we see of ourselves in Chinese culture, people and places. Our delegation has opened up a window through which our students can better understand the world and their own place in it," said Marcos Aguilar, Executive Director of Semillas Sociedad Civil, a public non-profit and parent organization to Semillas and Anahuacalmecac.

Earlier this year, Semillas announced its sister school alliance with Beijing Guanqumen Middle School and Beijing Gexinli Elementary School, marking the first ever between Los Angeles and Beijing schools. Under the accord, Semillas, Guanqumen and Gexinli became "Friendship Schools" with the mission of promoting intercultural understanding and knowledge of world languages as tools in strengthening international relations among youth. In their recent trip to China, Anahuacalmecac students honored the accord as they interacted and established relationships with Chinese students through cultural exchanges, which included a performance by Semillas students of traditional Aztec dance.

As Carlos Jaquez, Anahuacalmecac student delegate, stated, "I had a wonderful time in China. It was great sharing with Chinese students the Mandarin that I've learned at school, and I really enjoyed sharing our culture of Aztec dance and drumming with them."

As part of the delegation, Anahuacalmecac students and teachers also participated in the Hanban Chinese Bridge Summer Camp for American High School students, a three-week summer program coordinated through UCLA's Confucius Institute and designed to help American high schools students have a better understanding of Chinese language and culture. As part of the camp, students visited the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing while further developing their Chinese language skills and learning about Chinese culture, including calligraphy, painting, martial arts and history.

"Throughout the program, Anahuacalmecac students were recognized by everyone for their Mandarin ability and artistic skills," said Susan Pertel Jain, Executive Director of the UCLA Confucius Institute.

Anahucalmecac and Semillas are currently the only Indigenous charter schools in Los Angeles, and the only International Baccalaureate Candidate Schools, seeking to become the first World Schools in Los Angeles. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a recognized leader in the field of international education, working with selected internationally minded schools in 127 countries worldwide; a World School is authorized to teach in the Primary and Middle Years Programs by the International Baccalaureate.

While learning four languages - English, Spanish, Mandarin and Nahuatl, the native Aztec language - and becoming internationally minded community members, Semillas students have outperformed their peers in state tests. Semillas' international curriculum is a part of an initiative to establish the IB programs in East Los Angeles schools, paving the way for university success on the international stage for students in the community.

ABOUT SEMILLAS SOCIEDAD CIVIL:

Semillas Sociedad Civil ("Semillas") is a community-based, tax-exempt 501c3, California nonprofit public benefit organization dedicated to educational excellence, an appreciation of the cultural and intellectual heritage of Native American Peoples, and the promotion of positive social awareness. In 2001, Semillas founded its first charter school campus, Academia Semillas del Pueblo Charter School XINAXCALMECAC, a successful and highly innovative community-based k - 8th grade public charter school for the children of East Los Angeles. Semillas will be opening Anahuacalmecac International University of North America in September 2008, which will serve as the high school complement to Acadmeia Semillas del Pueblo. Academia Semillas del Pueblo and Anahuacalmecac are seeking to become the first World Schools in East Los Angeles, and are currently the only International Baccalaureate Candidate Schools in Los Angeles. Semillas aims to develop a network of community-based charter schools from kinder through 12th grade that share an Indigenous Culture and International Curriculum.

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