Voices for Understanding

Dickinson State University student Silvia Vigier of France flipped crepes, while Anupa Bhurtel of Nepal and Tenzin Yankeyi of India talked about their customs in recent days at Dickinson's Berg Elementary.

Silvia Vigier of France demonstrtes how to flip a crepe in the kitchen of Berg Elementary on Wednesday. She is a World Voices ambassador to Rosie Perdaems classroom.

Dickinson State University student Silvia Vigier of France flipped crepes, while Anupa Bhurtel of Nepal and Tenzin Yankeyi of India talked about their customs in recent days at Dickinson's Berg Elementary.

They are among 19 students participating in the 2009 "World Voices: Ambassadors for Understanding Project."

World Voices is an opportunity to bring international students into the classrooms of sixth graders, who are already studying world geography and world history.

"They read about it, but by bringing international students in, we bring primary sources for students to see, feel and touch," said World Voices committee chairwoman Marty Odermann-Gardner. The committee also includes Lois Myran, Melanie Kathrein, Thy Yang, Amy Axtman and Tammy Praus.

World Voices is a collaborative project between Dickinson Public Schools, Roughrider Educational Services Partnership and Dickinson State University. It started in 2005 with six classrooms, and it continues to grow each year, she said.


Eight countries are represented at Berg Elementary and others are at Trinity East and West in Dickinson, South Heart and Taylor-Richardton. New this year, World Voices is sending international students to two rural clusters: Medora, Golva and Amidon, and Halliday and Twin Buttes.

"The international students just love it," she said. "They really become ambassadors for understanding. It's about being a friend."

The international students prepare PowerPoint presentations that they present during three classroom visits. For their time spent on the project, DSU credits them with one hour of service learning.

Odermann-Gardner described the international students as rock stars when they visit the classrooms.

"Some students have never seen an international student before this experience," she said.

To highlight the program, Berg is holding a Passport Day. Students will be issued passports to visit four "countries."

"As they go, their passport will be stamped with whatever country they visit," said Odermann-Gardner. "The other thing, is parents can visit the countries with their children. It not only changes the lives of children, but we are giving the information to parents."

The program concludes with a Global Awareness Showcase on April 2. The program begins at 1 p.m. in the DSU Stickney Auditorium. Students will be bused to the auditorium, where international students will entertain on stage.


Berg Principal Tammy Praus said the international students visited the classrooms throughout February and March.

The visits end with Passport Day on March 27.

"This is new for us this year. World Voices is such a grand event, we decided to take it to another level and have it as the third quarter celebration," she said.

Praus said the students are excited to learn about the cultures represented by the international students.

"They are like a sponge -- able to absorb what a person has to share," she said. "Hopefully, we have planted a seed of interest, especially with the opportunity to learn about five countries."

Praus said students and parents also can log on to a closed Web site, which allows them to see the classroom presentations.

Tenzin Yankeyi of India , who visited Sue Jacobsen's classroom, spent one discussion on India's class system, music and pets. Another time, she introduced her family and talked about her school.

She enjoyed sharing her country's culture and answering the students' questions.


Yankeyi grew up in a city of 300,000 people. Her sister, who is already living in the United States, encouraged her to come. She is graduating from DSU in spring with a degree in accounting. She plans to enroll in graduate school at North Dakota State University before returning to India.

Anupa Bhurtel talked about her country of Nepal in Deb Greenup's classroom. She talked about her life as a child and explained the customs surrounding marriage. She told Nepal folk tales and mentioned the educational system.

"I think this is a real good experience for the kids," she said.

Bhurtel's father is a professor and her mother is a housewife. She came to New Jersey with a friend to study, but ended up in Dickinson because the cost was less expensive. She also is an accounting major and plans to enroll in graduate school.

A junior at DSU, Vigier has participated in World Voices for the past three years.

"I love it so much, my kids are so enthusiastic, so curious," she said. "They ask hundreds of questions."

She has given PowerPoint presentations about her country, but always looks forward to the lesson on making crepes.

"It's so much fun to show them how they can cook at home," she said.


Vigier describes crepes as pancakes, but very thin. Her favorite filling is nutella (chocolate, hazelnut spread), but jelly works as well.

Vigier grew up in Clermont-Ferrand, a city located in the middle of France. When she graduates, she hopes to stay in America.

She has enjoyed the years spent at DSU.

"People are very welcoming and I like the opportunities at DSU," she said.

World Voices is one way she can give back to the community. She is looking forward to Passport Day and to the Global Awareness Showcase.

"I taught a French song to the kids and they will perform it," she said.

The other World Voices participants are:

China: Qiao Wei, Wen Pan, Shanshan Li, Yue Wu, Yan Gao, Yang Li, Shau Lu, Xiaoyu Li, Han Zhu and Han Huiying.


Mongolia: Huanga Bayondalia.

Germany: Karen Newmann.

Russia: Olga Zvegintseva.

Zimbabwe: Nyembazi Dhliwanyo.

Kenya: Faith C. Tanui.

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