Lakes International Language Academy recently concluded its inaugural international language and cultural exchange program, "Camp Dragon – Mandarin By The Lake", which brought 18 Chinese students ages 10 and up and their chaperones to Forest Lake for two weeks. The day camp was presented in partnership with the Chinese Society of Education, the largest academic organization in China.
The Camp Dragon Opening Ceremony featured several guest speakers, including Madam Zhou of the Confucius Institute at St. Cloud State University; Garrison McMurtrey, representing Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office; Dan Solomon, representing Senator Al Franken’s office; State District 39A Representative Bob Dettmer; Zach Freimark, representing District 6 U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer; and teachers from China. The Chinese students introduced themselves with a slideshow and songs.
Following the introductions, Martha Roberts, president of the nonprofit organization World Citizen, officially recognized Lakes International Language Academy as an international peace site and presented a plaque to Cam Hedlund, LILA Executive Director. World Citizen board members Lonnie Strand, Caren Stelson, Marta Goldenman, and Karen Johnson also attended the ceremony. Martha shared the five Peace Actions with the audience: Seek peace within yourself and others; reach out in service; protect the environment; respect diversity; and be a responsible citizen of the world.
“The Peace Actions echo LILA’s mission to prepare our students to become global citizens and the principles of the International Baccalaureate curriculum,” said Shannon Peterson, LILA Director. “We’re thrilled to become an official international peace site.” LILA invited the Opening Ceremony guests to paint a thumbprint onto a peace symbol canvas to represent their commitment to promoting world peace.
During the camp, the Chinese guests taught their American “buddies” about their language and culture in the mornings, while the American students shared local activities and tours of the area, including visiting the Minnesota Twins facilities at Target Field, packing meals at Feed My Starving Children, and taking a field trip to the Mall of America. Local families hosted the guests in their homes. At the Closing Ceremony, students presented what they learned and exchanged emails to continue their new friendships.
“We were pleased with the attendance from China and a successful first year of the program,” said Camp Dragon Coordinator and LILA Spanish-immersion teacher Erin Voss, who worked with one of the school’s Chinese-immersion teachers, Yao Hsia, to develop and plan the camp. She added, “LILA hopes to send a group of our Upper School students to China next for a similar exchange program. It’s a great way to build language skills, cultural understanding, and awareness of global citizenship.”
LILA offers Spanish and Mandarin immersion programs for preschool through grade 12 based on the International Baccalaureate curriculum, with options for non-immersion students in grades 6-12 at the LILA Upper School. For more information about LILA’s tuition-free education options, visit www.MyLILA.org.