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Athey celebrates sister school relationship

Students visit from Republic of Korea; Athey students to travel to Korea in April


The world got a little smaller for the Athey Creek Middle School community as 17 students from Eonyang Middle School in the Republic of Korea visited West Linn for a weeklong visit that began Jan. 11.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - During a welcome ceremoney, Athey teacher John Moshofsky introduces seventh-grader Gabi Fustolo, who is hosting Ryu Ji, an exchange student from the Republic of Korea.The visit marked the start of a new sister school relationship between the two schools. Students from Athey Creek will further that relationship when they travel to Korea for a two-week visit in April.

“Sometimes middle schools can get tough,” Athey Creek Principal Joel Sebastian said. “So when you can have a young person in a middle school recognize that there’s someone else on the planet, that’s a victory.”

The Korean students’ principal, Wi-ja Ryu, accompanied them to West Linn. Each student stayed with a West Linn family for the week, and the local hosts were determined to immerse their guests in American family life.

Seventh-graders Katy Burkhartzmeyer, Gabi Fustolo and Dawson Kennedy and their families each hosted a student in their homes.

“I’m very excited. I’m over the top excited,” Katy said a few days before the students were scheduled to arrive.

“Aren’t we all?” Dawson said.

The Athey students had connected with their Korean counterparts via email before the visit, and they already felt they had gotten to know their visitors.

“She told me about her family and about stuff she likes to do,” Katy said.

“He sent me a picture of him and his sister,” Dawson said.

Email conversations allowed the students to focus on their similarities — one of the main goals of the exchange, according to Sebastian. The sister school proclamation celebrated the opportunity to create new learning communities, build bridges between cultures and establish lasting friendships.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn-Wilsonville Deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney, right, shares a laugh with visiting Korean Principal Wi-ja Ryu at a ceremony welcoming the Korean students Jan. 13.“We spent nearly a year and a half planning for today. That’s pretty significant,” Sebastian said during a welcome ceremony held at Athey Creek Jan. 13. “There’s not many middle schools that are going to have visitors from the other side of the world. Why would we go to so much effort? This project is about bringing people together. ... It’s not about how we notice differences but about how much we have in common.”

“The students teach us, the parents and the community,” Ryu said during the assembly. “We are so happy now to be part of West Linn. We want to learn a little more about you and your beautiful country. It is our hope this will continue on for many years to come.”by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Wi-ja Ryu, the principal of Eonyang Middle School in the Republic of Korea, addresses the assembled students during a ceremony to welcome the Korean students to Athey Creek Jan. 13.

Athey eighth-grader Elizabeth Paschal is part of the student ambassador program. She will travel to South Korea with the Athey Creek group this spring.

“While you are here, we plan on sharing some of the best that Oregon has to offer,” she said. “We hope our sister school serves as a model. ... Take action to learn firsthand about other cultures.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Athey Creek Principal Joel Sebastian gives a welcoming gift to his Korean counterpart, Wi-ja Ryu.The Korean students’ host families were determined to provide the opportunity to learn about life in West Linn.

“They want to learn about what American students go through,” Katy said.

Items on the agenda included family activities like dinners together and special outings to a Trail Blazers game, rock climbing and ice skating. The students also went on a series of field trips to tourist destinations like the Oregon coast and the state capitol.

Their weeklong visit was capped by a middle school ritual: attending a Friday night school dance.

“It’s going to be fun. I’m planning to go with her to the dance,” Gabi said.

“I want to know if he can dance. That’s going to be the test,” Dawson said.

“I want to know if they have different dance moves,” Katy added.

The dance may not have been what the foreign students had in mind when they thought about experiencing American culture, but they were game for it.

“I’m very honored to be here and I’m happy to finally meet all of you,” Kim Dong-gi said during the welcome ceremony. “Through the days I spend here, I try to understand American culture and courtesy and try my best to make my visit meaningful.”

The Athey host students summed up the exchange program’s goal in very few words.

“They can learn stuff about us and we can learn stuff about them,” Katy said.

“They can take their knowledge home and teach other people,” Gabi said.

“The knowledge can spread and help,” Dawson added.

That new knowledge just might have included a few dance moves as well as information about all that West Linn and Oregon have to offer.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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