China’s month-long Chinese New Year Break provided an opportunity for 14 Chinese students to come to America for attend Winter Camp, a three-week educational and cultural experience. They were immersed in the English language while living with host families and studying at High Point Academy in Geigertown.
“The children were here during the onset of the coronavirus,” said High Point Advancement Director Amy Sandiford. “Some were fearful about what is happening in China. They had access to a map system showing what parts of China were being affected. There is a shortage in medical masks during this health crisis.”
High Point collected medical masks from local dental, medical professionals and distributors to send home with the children. The Chinese students all flew home on Feb. 7.
The international agency FAMAY LLC, in Pottstown places students at Christian schools from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The program is fully funded by parents.
“China does not have enough schools for every child to attend high school and universities. Placement is very competitive. English is everything because they take a TOFEL test (of English or foreign language) for placement into school,” said Kate Charles, High Point Baptist Academy international student coordinator. “Most come looking for a high school or university to attend.”
Chinese children choose their America names when they are very young. Education being paramount, they study English throughout their school years. A typical school day is 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with break times for meals. Many eat all three meals at school, though some may go home for lunch or board at the school.
High Point Baptist Academy has held Winter Camp from 2018 to 2020.
“Their beautiful campus, enthusiastic teachers, friendly students, and host families make the students’ experiences unforgettable,” said FAMAY Manager Li Pan. “Cultural and language differences do not prevent them from developing deep friendships. We believe both Chinese and American children benefit immensely through our exchange programs.”
Field trips were made to Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, The Liberty Bell and shopping at Philadelphia Premium Outlets.
“This great program not only benefits the Chinese students, it broadens our students without leaving the school,” said Amy Sandiford, advancement director.
“Each student gets a buddy, their ambassador to navigate school,” said Charles.
At school, Ben Horwath and Summer Cone showed Emily Tu and Evan Rao how we respectfully handle our Flag. They played sports and Laser Tag at the school camp and attended chapel.
“The teachers are so nice and helpful. The school has a camp!” said Tony Zhan, a Chinese sixth-grade student.
The Chinese New Year celebration was the highlight event. Li Pan, of FAMAY, LCC, provided a festive Chinese luncheon, dragon decorations, red envelopes and more.
Fifth-grade teacher Brenda Hoffman had senior international student Daniel Tan tell how he celebrates Chinese New Year, explain the red envelope tradition and teach them numbers in Chinese.
“I love this country and beautiful environment. The stars! In the city we have no stars,” said sixth-grader Rainie Liu.
“They loved seeing the stars. Many live where there is light pollution and cannot see the stars. Oh and the girls had great fun posing with the snow, putting it in their hair, laying in it. For most it was the first time they saw snow!” said Sandiford.
“High Point is very fun. The students are exciting,” said fourth-grader Allen Wei.
“America is great. School is fun. Many friends play with me,” said Evan Rao, a fifth-grader.
“In America the buildings are beautiful, in China tall buildings,” said Sarina Chen, a seventh-grader. “I like the fresh air. The school is warm and small. The teacher is funny and interesting.”
Cindy Gao added, “Teachers here are so nice. Teachers in China are GRRRRR!” unable to think of the English word she wanted.
“We loved adding Lawrence and Allen into our family,” said host family Lin and Rod Breyer. “They blended right into birthday parties for our daughter and grandson, adding their personal touch by making birthday cards in both Chinese and English! They loved playing games and were quick to learn Monopoly, Farkle, Shut the Box, and Scrabble.”
“We enjoyed our two Chinese boys ... taking them to water park, Chinese speaking church and answering their questions,” said hosts Gloria and Darren Quaintance. “They loved shopping and their Chinese WECHAT, (their social media for chatting, sending photos and videos to family).”
“They are wonderful boys, we enjoyed them so much,” said host Susan Ford. “Had so much fun with my kids. They were in tears last night because the boys were leaving this morning.”
High Point seeks host families through school and church families first, but are open to others. To host Chinese students for Winter Camp or as a fulltime student, or other questions, email Kate Charles at Kcharles@hpbacademy.org.
High Point is still taking donations for medical masks to be mailed to the students in China.
Contact Amy Sandiford, director, at 610-286-5942 ext. 123, mail HPB 200 Chapel Rd., Birdsboro, PA 19508.