By Cheryl Conway
If traveling abroad this summer made that bucket list, then several members of the Mt. Olive High School Basketball team got some slam dunks.
Eleven players of the boys’ team and two coaches went to China June 27 to July 11 to play basketball and get cultured. Their fully funded trip was sponsored by Capstone America.
Chinese students have spent the past 18 months attending Mt. Olive High School and summer camps and as part of the exchange Mt Olive students and teachers have been invited to visit China. The basketball team is the first group to go from MOHS, but more groups will be invited in the future.
“It’s been a really great experience with this international partnership that we’ve established,” says MOHS Principal Kevin Stansberry. “It’s been a tremendous exchange between students and educators in
China and Mt. Olive High School.”
The relationship between China and MOHS “became available to us” in the summer of 2016, explains Stansberry. He explains it as “brand new, something fresh, something different.”
While MOHS has “brought in students from different countries every year I’ve been here,” including Germany, Spain and France as part of a foreign exchange program, Stansberry says the arrangement
with the students from the Asian countries is different. Students come here for credit that they can use to advance themselves and for college applications. “They have to pay tuition to earn high school
credit.” In turn, the Mt Olive school district brings in extra funding, while the students from Asia can build their transcript.
“China was very interested in what we have to offer at Mt. Olive High School,” says Stansberry. They liked the school’s programs, performance and school status particularly what it offers in humanities, music, art, robotics, Steam education and business, he says.
“We were looking for partners and they were doing their own research on how we prepare our students for college readiness,” says Stansberry.
At the end of August 2016, 12 students from China came to Mt. Olive to start their education experience
here. They stayed with host families during the school year of 2017 to 2018. Different students have been applying to attend this next school year for 2018 to 2019.
Last summer 100 students in grades nine through 12 from China, Korea and Vietnam participated in the Capstone summer program at MOHS. This year that number has more than doubled.
During this summer, 232 students from China, Korea and Vietnam are attending camps this year at MOHS. About 212 in grades three through eight were set to attend the District Steam Camp the weeks
of July 9 and July 16. About 32 students in grades nine through 12, also from the Asian countries, will attend the MOHS Character Camp during the weeks of July 23 and July 30 with a focus on English
American studies, industrial design, television and robotics.
Stansberry says arrangements have been made with Centenary University to use its dorms for the students to stay.
To reciprocate, talks began last year with Capstone America that involved inviting a constituent from Mt. Olive to visit China. Stansberry has visited there five times as part of the arrangement but that invitation has now extended into the school district.
“We really accelerated our partnership and our exchange,” says Stansberry. “More of our students, coaches, advisors will go over there,” he says, “to continue to build a bridge between our partners in
China and Mt. Olive High School.”
For the first group, it was a “toss up” between robotics or basketball team, says Stansberry. Planning happened quickly so it was a matter of who had visas.
“Robotics was just finishing their season,” says Stansberry. “Basketball is very popular in China,” with a “very organized sports program for boys,” and the thought was to arrange for some friendlies to merge the popular sports program.
“Basketball seemed to be a really good fit for this particular trip,” says Stansberry. Talks among the players began in April and resulted in the first group to go over: 11 boys, rising sophomores, juniors and
seniors, along with Dan Grzywacz, social studies teacher and girls’ basketball coach; and John Pieper, social studies teacher and boys’ freshman basketball coach.
After playing a friendly basketball team from Sweden at MOHS the Monday before their flight to China, Stansberry tagged them as the MO Globetrotters.
An “Exciting itinerary for students participating in this trip,” was planned for the group to include art, museums, site seeing, basketball and more. Accommodations were arranged for them to stay in public
and private dormitories on campus and at various sites.
For the first part of the trip the group planned to stay in Shijiazhuang; for the second part they were visiting Shanghai Sports Academy.
The exchange has been beneficial to all those involved in developing global citizenship; gaining appreciation of different cultures; growing ideas to pursue international business, world language, Asian
studies; improving language skills; learning the difference in schooling.
“It gave a worldly perspective on themes and topics,” says Stansberry, “and broadens perspectives of our students.”
Stansberry was planning to meet with Mt. Olive’s first set of travelers to China upon their return for a debriefing to learn about the highlights from their trip “to see how we can grow the program with
students and teachers.”
Stay tuned for a follow up story in August in Mt. Olive News.