San Jose school kids headed to China

Students from San Jose's Washington Elementary School wrap books to take to China. (ABC7/David Louie)

March 22, 2011 7:33:50 PM PDT
Three girls from San Jose's Washington Elementary School are heading to China in just over two weeks, fulfilling a dream to become young ambassadors after community groups (and even an ABC7 viewer) contributed money to make the trip possible.

Naenedy Lopez, Erika Morales and Kyara Sendejas will be going to the village of Zhongshan in China's Pearl River Delta, near Hong Kong. They got to hold their airline tickets and passports Tuesday for the first time while fellow members of the school's China Club wrapped books and wrote notes that will be given to the students in China.

As members of the China Club, the mostly 10 and 11 year olds have been giving up their lunch hour every Tuesday to learn Mandarin Chinese and to learn about Chinese culture, customs and history. The club's sponsors are San Jose businessman Dennis Fong and his wife Polly Kam, who not only teach the class but also tapped donors for financial support. Fong and Kam donated $5,000. The San Jose Rotary Club matched that amount after seeing the original story ABC7 did about the proposed exchange. An anonymous woman in Oakland also contributed $100 after seeing the ABC7 story.

"It became possible because so many people stepped up to help to make this a reality for the children," Fong said.

The fundraising effort is still $1,500 shy of its budgeted goal, but Fong is confident the money will be raised in the next week. The total budget was pared down to $17,500 from an original $20,000 goal. It includes costs for hosting two students and three representatives from the school in China on a reciprocal visit after the San Jose students return home.

Sendejas, who is the club's president, says it is a big responsibility to be ambassadors, represent their school, San Jose, and the U.S.

"That's a very big responsbility, I have to remember to be really nice, polit, and don't make fun of their culture and if they have something different from here, don't start like making rumors about it," Sendejas said.

She is looking forward to learning more about the Chinese school, hearing Chinese from native speakers, and meeting the students she has only seen via Skype video exchanges.

Sendejas and Lopez said the Chinese students are curious about the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration and why they, as Americans, observe the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. The two Chinese students who will be visiting Washington Elementary will be in town for Cinco de Mayo.

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