JSerra Students Journey on Silk Road to the Future

By Mrs. Olivia Huie

On July 17, 2010, ten JSerra students ventured to China on the Silk Road to the Future program sponsored by the Legends of China organization. The Silk Road to the Future is a dynamic educational and cultural collaboration among leading Chinese and U.S. universities and high schools. Its central purpose is to expose students, faculty and staff to a powerful, once-in-a-lifetime international immersion experience that provides the participants an unparalleled opportunity to travel through China to meet their Chinese counterparts.

Through experiential learning, the exchange of ideas, and a highly visual historical tour of China’s distinctive cities, all who take part in this program gain both an invaluable perspective on China and a significant understanding of the many Chinese cultural and educational practices. In this process, lasting relationships are forged with China and its wonderful, friendly people. Through these relationships, participants truly become Ambassadors of Peace. The Legends of China – Silk Road to the Future program has drawn participation of over 10,000 Ambassadors of Peace from some 200 prestigious universities and high schools across the United States and Canada, as well as from over 400 top Chinese institutions.

This trip marks the inaugural year for high school participants and JSerra was the first high school ever to participate in the program. JSerra participants, now established Ambassadors of Peace, include Courtney Avila ’11, Shanelle Bennett ’10, Elizabeth Evers ’11, Ian Farrell ’10, Riley Houser ’11, Ashleigh Luschei ’11, Savannah Luschei ’11, Alexa McBride ’13, Michael Salzle ’12, and Steven Summers ’11.

On our trip, we visited the world famous cities of Beijing and Shanghai. JSerra students were able to learn about Chinese culture through the eyes of Chinese high school students who accompanied us each day on the bus. While in Beijing, students visited the Capital Museum, a traditional Chinese medicine university, a hospital, and a prestigious high school, where 500 of the top Beijing high school students participating in a summer leadership program interacted with our students. During this program, Courtney Avila gave a speech on the importance of being a world leader in today’s society.

JSerra students also did an internship at a school for students with special needs. Ashleigh Luschei was the keynote speaker for the event and inspired the students to realize their own potential as leaders despite their challenges. Our Lions were able to conduct workshops for the kids that included teaching them English, drawing, silk painting, playing sports, and dancing. We also had a talent showcase where Ian Farrell played the piano, Steven Summers did card tricks, and all of the girls did a fun skit that had the whole crowd laughing after it was translated into Mandarin by one of the kids with special needs. We were very surprised that he knew English extremely well and when asked about it, he said English was his “life’s work!” JSerra students had a fun gift exchange at the end where they learned the significant act of gift giving in the Chinese culture.

Our students then participated in the Silk Road to the Future Annual Ceremony where college students, faculty, and administration from UCLA, UCI, UCSB, UCSD, UCSF, UCB, UCSC, State University of New York at Buffalo, Oregon State University, University of Texas, Austin and University of Miami joined them. All students were asked to create a silk banner depicting world peace. The first high school winner was Lizzy Evers who won an authentic Chinese Peking Opera wall hanging. The Provost of the University of Miami presented her with the award.

Later in the week, JSerra Lions conquered The Great Wall of China, walked through the halls of the Forbidden City, learned about Tian’anmen Square, and took in the Beijing Olympic Park. After a week of amazing experiences, we flew to Shanghai where we learned about silk culture directly from the silk worms themselves. Students witnessed silk being woven and created in beautiful silk fabrics. In addition to silk culture, students learned about Chinese tea culture, and jade culture. After a day of fun bargaining in Shanghai’s “China Town”, we headed to the World Exposition, an event that takes place every four years and is a grand gathering of world cultures.

The students truly received a cultural immersion and the trip of a lifetime. We look forward to continuing the trip next summer and may even have the opportunity to travel to Tibet. A special thanks to all our JSerra Ambassadors of Peace! Xie Xie!