RHS student receives scholarship to visit China

Rockford High School (RHS) junior Colin McWatters has been awarded a 2010-11 National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) scholarship to study Chinese in Shanghai this summer through the U.S. Department of State (NSLI for Youth). McWatters has been studying Mandarin Chinese for three years at RHS.

Colin McWatters (center) is the recipient of a scholarship to study Chinese in Shanghai this summer. Pictured with McWatters is Rockford High School Mandarin Chinese instructor Jeff Hayes (left) and exchange teacher Song Shuyun (right).

The NSLI-Y Summer Institute of Chinese Language and Culture aims to provide an immersion learning environment in which students will significantly improve language proficiency and enhance cross-cultural competence and communicative skills. Specifically, the summer institute will employ a carefully designed mix of learning activities including in-class intensive Mandarin Chinese instruction at all levels, lectures on Chinese history and culture focusing on the modern and contemporary periods, home stays with Chinese families, interaction with Chinese student “buddies” from local colleges and high schools, volunteer activities centered on environmental awareness and Sichuan Earthquake relief, a study trip to Beijing to reinforce classroom instruction, cultural excursions in and around Shanghai, and a visit to the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.

The theme of the proposed Summer Institute is “Understanding Modern China—Tradition and Transformation” with special emphasis on China’s emerging popular culture, with guest lectures from well-known directors, film stars, musicians and cultural figures. Participants will gain insight into important social forces in contemporary China to help them build bridges between their own interests in American popular culture and the popular cultural interests of typical high school students in China.

RHS Chinese teacher Jeff Hayes stated, “According to the U.S. State Department, Mandarin Chinese is the most difficult language for English speakers to master. The fact that Colin has continued to study the language throughout his high school experience and has been awarded a national scholarship to study abroad in China for a summer attests to his skill and dedication. Needless to say, Colin is both bright and hard-working, and I am extremely proud of his accomplishments so far.”

Hayes has been to China several times over the past 11 years. “Going to China is always an eye-opening experience,” said Hayes, “because the country is changing so quickly. Colin is going to Shanghai, which is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in China. It’s like New York City only much larger.”

Rockford’s Chinese program was the first public school Chinese program in West Michigan. RHS has the largest program, with over 100 students enrolled, and offers four full years of the language to high school students. The program has been nationally recognized by the U.S. State Department, which used the program as a model for success. Since 2008, Rockford has also hosted two exchange teachers from China as part of the Teachers of Critical Languages Program. Rockford is the only district in the state of Michigan to receive the award.

“I am very excited about my trip!” said McWatters. “I expect to improve my language skills by a large margin. In the future I intend to pursue medicine, and I want to learn Chinese in order to interact with Chinese scientists, and potentially take a residency in a

Chinese hospital.”

For more information, you can visit exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/nsli.html or contact RHS Principal Dan Zang at (616) 863-6030.

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