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Chinese exchange students give back to OHS programs

Swim Coach Jackie Rank with Rudy He. (click for larger version)
January 22, 2014 - After spending the past two years at Oxford High School, Senior Chinese Foreign Exchange Students Rudy He and Jeff Zhang decided to give a portion of their scholarship money from the Beijing Consulting Group back to Oxford Community Schools.

He donated $1,000 to Oxford Girls Varsity Swim Team and Zhang donated $1,000 to school's robotics team TORC.

"I came here two years ago and became a junior at Oxford High School and I joined the swim team. That was a pretty good start (at Oxford)," He said. "I like Oxford a lot."

Front: Senior Jeff Zhang shakes hands with Sophmore Kristen Ewald (Electrical & Programming Captain) and presents a $1,000 check to fellow TORC team members (Back left to right) Junior, Drew Sedam (CAD Captain), Senior, Titus Shumaker (CAD Captain), and Junior, Devon King (Fabrication Captain). (click for larger version)
He has also had two host families, which she says have been "very good" to her.

"They take care of me and my friends in school are very good too, as well as my teammates," she added. "Basically I've had a pretty good (experience) of new culture and new (way) of life in America."

When asked why she decided to donate to the swim team, He said because "they are like a super family (to me)."

"All my teammates are really good," she said. "The swim team needs to buy a lot of stuff like the lane lines . . .and they're super-expensive. I thought I could help them at least pay a part of it and make our coach and assistant coach feel a little more relaxed and not worry about (the cost of) everything so much."

Girls Varsity Swim Coach Jackie Rank said she tried to convince He to save her money, but was unsuccessful.

"I told her to check with the scholarship fund because sometimes they have restrictions on what the money can be used for. She informed me that she had already done that. I then told her to talk it over with her parents and she already had. She had a response for me each time," Rank said. "She simply loves this team that much and we love her right back. We had the pleasure of having her on the team for two years and we are all better people because of it."

While He has enjoyed all kinds of activities while being in Oxford and joining the swim team, she says her best experience "is helping out the community to make it better."

Zhang, who also came to OHS as a junior, said he spent his first year studying "the same as American students" and this year in addition to his classes at OHS he has taken four college courses.

As a part of his Oxford experience, he joined the robotics team and the orchestra.

"Last year I attended the Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp," he noted.

Zhang said his donation to the robotics team was a way to thank the team for teaching him about engineering, something he has wanted to study ever since he was 10 years old.

"Before I came here I had no concept (of) what engineering is," he added. "I know it's a very hard job because I see the NASA Space Shuttle Program and I see the tons of scientists and engineers that are sitting before a computer and organizing to make it (a successful mission) and yelling because they are happy (they succeeded.)"

Zhang noted that not only has he learned what classes he needs to take in order to become an engineer, but also physical hands-on skills such as using drills and "how to screw screws," something they don't teach students in China. Being on TORC has also increased his social skills, something he said he didn't have prior to coming to America.

"Before in China, I would just stay at home doing my homework," he said. "Now I know how to be more social and communicate with others and make friends."

"I am just thankful for the engineering program and the people in it," Zhang added. "They have taught me a lot."

"Jeff's donation means a lot to our team. It shows the impact we have on our members and how we inspire them to participate in and support STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) activities," said Junior TORC team member Julia Reynolds "It also provides proof that our efforts to increase interest in STEM are working." 

"Our team really loves working with Jeff. It's such a great opportunity to work with international students like Jeff. It opens our eyes to a bigger world," added Sophmore TORC team member Kristen Ewald. "He has also taught us how to overcome language barriers and still get things done. Jeff is a really great person to work with and our team would not be the same without him." 

As for future plans, He said she has put in college applications both to Michigan State University and to the University of Michigan. She wants to major in general management. Zhang is looking at Kettering University, the University of Michigan or an engineering school in Roscommon. He wants to study nuclear engineering and "use nuclear power to help people."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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