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Promoting understanding

UNDERSTANDING:Wabash City Schools Superintendent Jason Callahan, left, and Xunbin Chen, president of Zhejiang Huangyan Experiential School, shake hands after signing of a memorandum of understandingbetween the two school districts Monday at Wabash Middle School.

by Rob Burgess - rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com

The Five-Starred Red Flag mounted next to the Stars and Stripes on the auditorium stage was just one indication that this was no ordinary Monday morning at Wabash Middle School.

The room was buzzing with excitement as a delegation of 17 students and two chaperones from Taizhon, China was in attendance for a short visit to the area.

The occasion of that morning’s program was Wabash City Schools (WCS) Superintendent Jason Callahan’s signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Xunbin Chen, president of Zhejiang Huangyan Experiential School.

Wabash and Linhai, China are sister cities, just like Fort Wayne is to Taizhou, China, and just like Indiana is a sister state to Zhejiang, China.

“This is a pretty exciting day at Wabash Middle School,” said Wabash Middle School Principal Mike Mattern. “They’re going to spend the week with us here and this is going to be a fantastic experience for both groups.”

After a round of applause for the visitors, Mattern said the group had traveled around 23 hours on Sunday, catching three or four hours of sleep at their host families’ homes before arriving at the school.

“All of them have said they are extremely excited about experiencing the day,” he said.

Mattern said the partnership between the two schools began five years ago when a delegation from Wabash went to China to create a connection between the two communities.

“There can be some great opportunity for all of us out of this partnership,” he said.

Callahan said this MOU signing marked a “historic event between our two schools.” He said the MOU contained the following agreements to:

n Promote international relationships and cooperation to serve the schools, teachers, students and their communities.

n Encourage and facilitate the long-distance communication between teachers and students of both sides using pen pal, internet and other distance learning and e-learning technical facilities.

n Strengthen exchange, enhance understanding and friendship, as well as respect cultural differences, encourage and facilitate the exchange and visits of students and teachers.

n To create opportunities for students and teachers to learn STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) courses.

“Relationships are a core principle of Wabash City Schools,” said Callahan. “We are more alike than different.”

Xunbin Chen, president of Zhejiang Huangyan Experiential School, took the podium next and was quickly followed by a translator.

“Thanks for your warm invitation,” he said. “I think it will be a good start to enrich our academic content. We are confident to continue in-depth cooperation and exchange between two sides.”

Before signing the agreement along with Callahan, Chen welcomed students from Wabash who were planning a trip to their school in China in October.