Cultural Exchange Leads Students to Embrace Their Peers From Around the World
Nearly 200 teens, including those from Newark and continents like Asia, Africa and Australia, took part in a cultural exchange at New Community Corporation this summer that led them to realize they had more in common than they had envisioned.
“We can no longer live in our communities and believe we are the center of the world,” said Jo Anne Murphy, Director of Programs with Intergovernmental and Nongovernmental Organizations at Fairleigh Dickinson University, which sponsored the one-day exchange at NCC as part of the school’s Emerging Global Leaders Seminar.
“We get strength from each other’s differences,” added Richard Rohrman, NCC’s Executive Director, as he welcomed the diverse group of students to the New Community Neighborhood Center in Newark, where the exchange took place.
The most moving part of the program occurred during the closing ceremony, when the students, the majority of whom were from China, joined together in singing Hezekiah Walker’s “I Need you to Survive,” a song of unity which begins, “I need you, you need me; we’re all a part of God’s body.”
“What unites us is greater than what separates us. I think this is great,” said Fu Zhe Han, 17, one of the Chinese students who participated in the seminar, which is supported by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, a non-profit that promotes opportunities for building youth leadership and peace through cultural exchange.
The international students and a group of New Community teens also participated in the 12th Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations, where they had an opportunity to network with students from 20 different countries and visit the U.S. Mission, engaging in one-on-one discussions with diplomats.
“…Being a part of this experience is unforgettable because you realize how many problems there are around the world that people face,” said Subrina Searwar, a 17-year-old senior at Newark’s Science High School.
A youth-led discussion at New Community was aimed at applying local solutions to help solve pressing global issues. During the roundtable group discussion, many of the Newark students talked about the Trayvon Martin shooting and were surprised to hear from their peers that violence is also a problem in other places around the world.
“I thought there was no violence in China,” said Cassandra Hutchins, 16, a junior at Newark Bridges High School.
“Racial violence is often triggered by the fear of what is unknown to us,” added Tenin Aline Diarra, who hails from the West African Republic of Mali. “We need to educate family, friends and students to actively encourage embracing other cultures and races.