“Cultural Competency” as described by Sam Fulwood in D.G. Martin’s article (CHN, http://bit.ly/1RmKVEc) is an attribute where journalists have “a background and attitude that gives (them) an understanding and appreciation for the cultures of the varieties of peoples who are readers consumers of the media products.”
This expression speaks directly to this critical skill, which is necessary for all of us to effectively work together in order to build a more peaceful world. As we do this, we also have the privilege of modeling this skill for our youngsters, as they prepare for their collective future, now fully aware that this collective future will be determined in part by their ability to apply this powerful competency.
Two days after the attacks in Brussels, I arrived at a meeting in Chapel Hill which I had previously planned for the students and parents of those potentially joining our planned 2017 trip to Belgium. I was not sure what to expect in terms of attendance given the recent news of this attack.
Much to my surprise, I arrived to a virtual sea of faces of parents and their French student, all still quite open to learn more about traveling to Belgium in 2017. Some of the attendees even knew that I had been at this same airport in Belgium on the same day, same hour, same place with 30 students and five teachers exactly a year ago.
Adding to the timing of all of this, the Smith Middle School community is welcoming 36 Belgian students and teachers to our homes in just a few days. They missed being in the airport during this horrific event by five days, yet have bravely decided to continue with this trip.
What stands out above all else for me is the courage reflected in the actions of all of the parents and students from Chapel Hill and Belgium, as they continue to develop both an understanding and a deep appreciation for one another. Since 2001, over 500 Belgian and American teachers and students have crossed the ocean as part of this program, to learn about each other’s cultures, knowing full well that peace only comes through the understanding we achieve through a shared journey.
As I expressed to the parents at the meeting, I am also committed to traveling with students whose families do not have the financial resources to participate. In the past, Smith Middle School became the first secondary school in the U.S. to receive funds from the European Union for this purpose (Smith was subsequently awarded this funding three additional times). One year, bioMerieux graciously funded this program as well.
Going forward, I do not have funding for 2017 and our goal this year is to raise $30,000 for students who have demonstrated the commitment to go, but cannot afford it. Along with a one-week homestay in Liege, Belgium, students will learn about the impact of war by visiting historic World War II sites in Normandy and Paris.
If you would like to support this academic experience abroad, please consider donating to the Public School Foundation (501c3) with Belgian Exchange indicated on line 7 of the PSF online form www.publicschoolfoundation.org
On behalf of those students who could benefit from your potential support, I thank you for your kind consideration of this request.
Robin McMahon is a French teacher at Smith Middle School.