Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Program Brings Young Russians, Americans Together

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Program Brings Young Russians, Americans Together

Article excerpt

To see Bettina Garcia and Aleksey Bychkov together is like

watching two long-time friends discuss their favorite music,

what movies they like or a plan for tackling their latest school

project. But these two only met last week, and neither speaks

the other's language.

Garcia and three other Orange Park High School students have

found ways around the language barrier and seem very much at

ease with their Russian counterparts, who arrived in the United

States Jan. 22 to begin a two-month stay to study the effects of

nicotine on health.

On March 31, the American students will fly to Labinsk, Russia,

with their health science education teacher, Ann Wilson, to

spend an additional four weeks doing research, which will be

used to help them produce a pamphlet on the subject.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Wilson said. "Finding

out about other cultures and sharing what we learn will

certainly enhance my classroom for years to come."

While Wilson's students share her excitement, some admit they

are apprehensive.

"I am looking forward to the trip but I am a little nervous

because it is so far from home and everything will be so

different," said 16-year-old Carina Natividad. "I am planning on

a career in the medical field, and this is a great opportunity

to learn and share information about health issues."

The exchange program is being funded by a grant from the United

States Information Agency awarded to Miami Carol City Adult and

Community Education Center.

Wilson read about the project while surfing the Internet last

summer and after talking to Orange Park High School principal

Sam Ward, she submitted a proposal. Orange Park became one of 10

Florida schools selected to participate.

While Orange Park is the only school taking part in the program

in Clay County, three schools in Duval County also were

selected: Edward H. White Senior High, Mandarin Senior High and

Sandalwood Senior High. Each school will be studying a different

health related issue: Alcohol abuse (Mandarin students from

Minsk, Belarus), Daily Habits to Staying Healthy (Sandalwood

students from Baku, Azerbaijan), and Vision (Edward H. White

students from Murmansk, Russia).

Students in the exchange program were selected based on

applications they submitted that included a brief essay on why

they wanted to participate in the project.

At first, Roxanne Garcia, Bettina's mother, had doubts about

letting her daughter get involved, but she's pleased she will

have a chance to travel and study in another country.

"My first response to her about all of this was no, and then I

thought I should let her apply because I honestly didn't think

she would be selected," said Garcia. …

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