by: David F. Ashton, This kitty-cat dance, performed by Kindergarten students at Woodstock Elementary School, charmed the crowd

Welcoming the 'Year of the Pig', celebrants packed the Portland Community College (PCC) Southeast Center on S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses, on Monday, February 19th.

This pan-Asian celebration included greetings, arts, and entertainment from Thailand, Japan, Korea, and Viet Nam, as well as China.

'Everyone, including Americans, are having a good time here today,' PCC's Associate Vice President Wing-Kit Chung, told us. 'At PCC, we value the different cultures in Portland. Being aware of different cultures adds to the educational experience.'

Some of the cultural activities at the PCC event included a class by Rosalin C. Wang, in which she taught kids and adults the art of Chinese decorative knot-tying. She gave a two-hour version of her class a week later, at the Sellwood Branch Library.

And, Ping Khaw demonstrated Chinese brush calligraphy. Many American names don't directly translate into Mandarin; so, he said, he chooses syllables in Chinese that mirror those in English. Many times, the Chinese version of a name is a pun, relating to the name to the individual.

At other tables, attendees learned to eat with chopsticks, create paper art, and do brush painting.

The celebration got underway with greetings from civic and school officials - and the traditional Lion Dance.

But, it was the students from Woodstock Elementary School's Mandarin Immersion Program who stole the show, entertaining the nearly 400 people who packed the Grand Atrium of the PCC Southeast Center.

Wearing colorful costumes, students - from kindergarteners on up - performed traditional dances, sang songs, and played percussion instruments.

Woodstock teacher Shen Yin was very busy, staging the young performers while organizing their props. 'The students performed well today,' she beamed.

We asked Yin why learning Asian languages benefits students who live here in Inner Southeast Portland.

'When children learn a new language,' Yin explained, 'it helps them learn about new cultures; it helps create mutual understanding. It makes them better able to learn things, in general. It also helps their academics, because it expands their thinking processes,' she said.

At Woodstock Elementary School, all students participate in learning Mandarin Chinese. Funding for the program, Yin told us, comes through the U.S. Dept. of Defense, 'because Mandarin has been identified as a 'national security language'.'

In this context, she added, national security encompasses economic security and America's ability to compete in a global economy.

In addition to a full schedule of entertainment and arts demonstrations at the February 19th event on the PCC Southeast campus, folks who attended the Chinese New Year celebration were treated to a low-cost luncheon.

Before we left, Wing-Kit Chung, said, 'I'm very pleased. This is a very happy, successful event.'

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