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South Korea Ambassador program brings cultures together

Posted January 13, 2015

TUSD officials and members of the community welcomed 35 visiting students from South Korea at a reception Monday, Jan. 13. The students are paired with peers from Safford K-8 and Magee and Secrist middle schools and will spend about three weeks in Tucson.

Dr. Adrian Vega, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, told the visitors and their American counterparts that the experience could have a profound effect on them.

"I believe it is experiences like this that can ultimately change your life," he said at the gathering, which was hosted by Safford K-8 at Armory Park.

The visiting students come from Yeongyang Gun and Ulleungdo, both remote parts of their country. The hope is that all students involved in the TUSD Korean Ambassador Program will make connections between themselves and a larger world and will learn to dream big.

Tsuru Bailey-Jones, director of the district's Asian Pacific American Student Services, said the personal bonds the South Korean and American students form are strong. The program is in its seventh year, and when it comes time for the South Korean students to go home, the host schools see a lot of tears.

But at the reception Monday, some of the students were just meeting each other for the first time, and the children were a little shy. Still, it was clear that friendships were starting to form, especially among the students whose families are hosting the visitors. They've been together since the South Korean students arrived in Tucson on Friday.

Isiah Martin, a Secrist student, is the ambassador for Jeon Yang-tuek, who will go by the name "Jim" while he's here. The two have bonded so far over a couple of things. "We are both boys," said Isiah, laughing. That's a start. They've also quickly connected over football, already being hushed by Isiah's mom for cheering too loud during Sunday's Green Bay Packers game.

Jim said that was his second time watching an American football game, and he seemed to love it. One thing he's not so crazy about: the weather. In Ulleungdo, where he lives, it's cold and snowy. He's says it's too hot here.

Caroline Amoureus, who goes to Magee, is hosting Hyeon Jeong Jeang. Over the weekend, they visited Park Place Mall and Costco. Hyeon was not terribly impressed by either place. She deemed them "so-so." Too big for her taste. But the girls have found a couple of shared interests. They both love to draw and write, and their birthdays are close. Heyeon was born May 4, 2002 and Caroline was born May 5, 2002. Both girls think that is pretty cool.

In addition to the spots host families decide to visit, the students are scheduled to go to Sabino Canyon, the University of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert Museum during their time in Tucson.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships that will last the rest of your lives," said Eugene Butler, assistant superintendent for Student Services.

For more information, see the Asian Pacific American Student Services webpages.
 Photo of Jeon Yang-tuek and Isiah Martin.
Jeon Yang-tuek and his American ambassador Isiah Martin.
 Photo of Caroline Amoureus and Hyeon Jeong Jeang.
Caroline Amoureus and visiting South Korean student Hyeon Jeong Jeang.