Introducing our students to people and places offering different perspectives is vastly important. Much in the same way that many students describe gaining powerful understanding as a result of participating in Andros Adventure through Colchester High School, creating occasions through which students can familiarize themselves with people and places of other cultures helps them to gain commanding insight and an appreciation for others—as well as a greater appreciation for their own opportunities. It also helps to encourage respect for differences and helps to build positive connections. (CMS’s October 18 Mix It Up at Lunch Day is another example of its efforts in this endeavor.)
As part of this initiative to introduce our students to global guests, Julia Melloni with Colchester Middle School’s Harbor House recently invited Burlington High School senior Claude Maserek Mumbere—a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who, with his family, sought asylum in the United States—to speak to her students.
Although he was already multilingual (speaking Lingala, Swahili, and French fluently) before emigrating to the United States not long ago, Mr. Mumbere is not a native English speaker. Nevertheless, he took top honors in the 2011 Vermont Poetry Out Loud competition after speaking English for only a few short years. (You can listen to a clip of one of his recitations here as recorded by Vermont Public Radio.) Even more incredibly, his performance in the Poetry Out Loud competition caught the attention of the production team for the NASA film LOOP. They invited him to audition for the film’s narrating responsibilities, and, after trumping professionals in the industry who also auditioned, he was hired for the opportunity, thus introducing his speaking voice to the world over. In addition, Mr. Mumbere was named soccer player of the year by the Burlington Free Press.
Mr. Mumbere’s presentation made a resounding impact upon the CMS students in part because, although his cultural experiences earlier in his life were vastly different, he now lives within the same societal, technological, and political climate as they do. As a cohort, his outstanding accomplishments, zeal for taking full advantage of his educational opportunities, and gratefulness for his circumstances carry much more weight for many students than that of someone who only seems real in an abstract sense and to whom our students cannot actually relate—such as someone they’ve only read about or seen in a documentary. Mr. Mumbere’s astounding achievements in the face of so many challenges have proven inspirational and have given our students a greater appreciation for their own opportunities.
This is why such programs are so vitally important in our schools.
Ms. Melloni plans to invite a number of other global guests in and around our area to speak with our students in the coming months. Stay tuned for those features!
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