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Seniors collaborate with Vietnamese students to publish book

English department chairperson Eveline Bailey provided dinner and inspiration as the seniors collaborated with grade 10 X-cel students at The Olympia Schools in Hanoi, Vietnam, to write a book examining the cultural similarities and differences between the two countries.  The book is the project of their discussion, collaboration and learning over the course of the 2015-16 school year. 

Reflections: Global Student Voices of the 21st Century by Global Connections is now available for purchase online at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, Book Country and Amazon. All proceeds from the sale of the book, which costs $1.99, are donated to the International Rescue Committee, a charity chosen by the students that provides humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster. 

The collaborative with the Hanoi students began after Bailey worked with Christopher McDonald, head of schools for The Olympia Schools, in her consulting work with Advanced Placement (AP). They discussed a student-led collaboration between the schools and created the Global CXN Group. 

Bailey’s students were paired with Daniel Rymer’s grade 10 X-cel students at The Olympia Schools. Both groups read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and using Edmodo, entered into discussion about the major themes and conflicts in the novel. However, they soon found that those conversations often led to talks about their very different cultures. 

“They were more interested in what each others’ lives were like,” Bailey said. “The more that they talked, the more they discovered about each other, including their cultural differences.” 

Bailey noted that a major topic of discussion was food, but other popular topics were school days and activities, their daily lives, popular media, music, art, festivals, sports and holiday traditions. 

When they came up with the idea of writing a book about those differences, Bailey cautioned them about the intensity of that type of project, especially during a busy senior year. 

“I said, ‘You know that’s a lot of work, right?’” she said. “They were all in!” 

Each of the American students chose a topic and worked with a Vietnamese student on that specific subject, each sharing his or her own perspective. Citizenship and civic duty, daily living and education were among the subjects addressed by the students in the book. 

Fourteen LPHS students and 16 students from The Olympia Schools were involved in the project. They began in November, and some even met at the public library during Thanksgiving break to work on the project. 

Using Google Docs and DropBox helped the students from the two countries to work on the project together despite the 8,600-mile distance and 12-hour time difference. 

Members of the La Porte High School writing team included Julie Agarrado, Cassie Allred, Toni Bonvillain, McCade Fletcher, Donald Giffin, Natalie Hoots, Brent Jackson, Sara Longoria, Laken Parker, Ivie Rocha, Charlene Rosenlund, Alondra Segovia, Maggie Simmons and Bailey Webster. 

The students also gained perspective from Nam Nguyen, a 2015 La Porte High School graduate who moved to La Porte from Vietnam in ninth grade.  Nam often visited with the La Porte students and helped to bridge the gap between the students and their countries. 

The group met in the classroom three evenings each week—on Tuesdays until 5 p.m. and on Wednesdays and Thursdays until 7 p.m.   

Aside from providing an occasional meal, Bailey asked them guiding questions and had them reflect on what they were learning as they worked their way through the book. She also assured them that “the first write is not a good write,” encouraging them to write and re-write their sections. 

“It took us weeks to decide on a title!” she said. 

They completed the book in March, and while the students edited it, Bailey completed the legal paperwork toward its publication. The book was released last month. 

In her blog about the experience, Bailey summed the project up like this:  “In the end, I am finding that no matter where they call home, kids are kids. There’s a fundamental sameness—a oneness, if you will—among all of us that transcends race, birthplace, religious beliefs, and cultural experiences; a oneness that surpasses culture and that is much more human and binding; a oneness that is rooted in a common desire for love, belonging, acceptance. The ideologies and differences that we (adults) allow to divide us are the very things that we should celebrate, the things that bring richness and diversity to our lives. That is the lesson I am learning from our Global CXN students.”