Diversity at Obama Through Cultural Exchange

Martinea Goss

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One of Obama Academy’s main priorities is to maintain a school of diversity. We fulfill this priority by accepting children of all ethnicities, cultures, genders, and religions. We even take exchange students and allow them to receive an education here for as little as one school year or more. In the past we have had students from Germany, Africa, Thailand, and various other places. We have even had some of our own students go to other countries and come back and tell us how different it was. This year we are thrilled because we have exchange students from Haiti, Mexico, and Pakistan! I had the opportunity to speak with all three of these students and got a chance to receive really great feedback from each and every one of them.

Mircalene Valcin is a young lady from Haiti. She is not an exchange student though, her family moved from Haiti to America. “I like it here, I am very shy but I am getting used to it. In Haiti, formalized education is not free and costs a lot of money. Here in America it is free, that is what I like the most.” Mircalene intends to stay in the U.S. and attend college for nursing. Of course I recommended the University of Pittsburgh, which is one of the best medical schools; she said she would consider it. When asked what the biggest difference between Pittsburgh and Haiti is, she said, “the weather.” She has never seen snow because in Haiti it never snows and it is always hot. She also said the class sizes are different. In Haiti they have up to 40 students in very small rooms; here at Obama we have on average 32 students per class. We closed out the conversation with her letting me know, “I love to shop and watch football and soccer when not doing my school work.” Mircalene is definitely my type of friend!

I then had the wonderful opportunity to interview Christian Garcia-Campos. Christian is a junior at Obama from      Puebla, Mexico and she is here to pursue a career in ballet. She is practicing ballet at the PBT Dance Professional Program, which is a big deal! “I have been dancing since I was three,” Christian says, “it started as a hobby but then it began to get serious, so I stuck with it. I love it!” I asked her what she did and did not like about Pittsburgh and she said that in Mexico they are a lot warmer, literally and figuratively speaking. “Back home we hug more and show a lot of hospitality but in America you guys tend to be colder and not as open. I am adjusting though.” She thinks that everything here is different, from the time she eats dinner to the time she goes to sleep. I asked her if she considered staying in America and she stated, “I do not know. I may stay if I get into a professional ballet company, but I really miss Mexico sometimes. I also would not mind being a ballet teacher.” To top it off, Christian wanted to say, “Thank you to all the people who have been nice to me since being here in Pittsburgh and all the people who have helped me.”

Last but certainly not least, Farooq Ahmed from Balochistan, Pakistan, spoke with me about where he comes from and he had a lot to say. He is a junior and will be here for nine long and fun months. His province in Pakistan is the largest and richest province in Pakistan. I asked him what his social classes in Pakistan were like, and he said, “There are a lot of rich and a lot of poor. There is no in between. “He told me he wants to do any and everything he can to better his country as a whole but he does not want to be a politician. He does not want to stay in the states; he will return to Pakistan and do everything in his power to make it far better.Cultural exchange

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