July 30, 2014 - Twenty-five third-through-fifth-grade Chinese students from Oxford's sister schools in Shenzhen and Chongqing joined Oxford students for a week of summer camp fun July 21-28.
Haowei Lu (front) and Kai Wen paint Vincent Van Gough's "Starry Night." Photo by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
"It's unique because we've had an opportunity to visit these schools before so some of the kids have even recognized us," said Oxford Elementary Principal Jeff Brown.
The 25 students were split up from 14 host families from Clear Lake, Daniel Axford and OES. The students got to enjoy time at Merge Studio & Gallery, where they got to create graffiti art, mosaics, paint Vincent Van Gough's "Starry Night" as well as do some exercises and team-building activities.
"For us it was perfect timing because July is generally a slower month for us," said Merge owner Karey Collins. "We've been working with the school to put together a fun week for the kids and give them some art experience."
"We're working hard to have the exchange students spend time and build relationships with their host siblings, so we have them paired with the children they're staying with," she added.
"My effort is that they improve their English while they're here by keeping them mixed in with the American kids. We're teaching all of our art and projects in English, it's a challenge, but they're catching on. Kids learn quickly."
Collins also noted that she had three high school students helping out during the week who were doing volunteer hours to get into the National Honor's Society.
"It's a really neat project for more than just the Chinese kids," she said.
The camp also consisted of time at the Eisenhower Dance Studio and the Majestic Horse Farm, owned by Lori and Blake Streeter
"Lori and Blake have been hosting half of the kids everyday, which has been an amazing experience of getting pictures of the kids on horses because that's not something they are used to," Brown said. "Chongqing (has) 38 million people and there are no horses, so that's been a really unique opportunity for the kids as well."
Brown said he also got a chance to get to know a couple of the teachers' better, by hosting one from each school at his house for the week.
"We've been doing a lot of Great Lakes Crossing shopping and things like that. The families have (also) been amazing. We've had kids go to Tiger's games, we've had families take them for day trips, one family went up to Charlevoix," he said. "Many of our families live on lakes, (so the students are) riding jet skis, out on boats, fishing and that type of stuff, so it's kind of giving them a taste for Oxford."
Over the weekend the kids got to enjoy Sand Dunes at the AA Ranch in West Michigan as well as a day at the Water Park at Michigan Adventure.
"It's just been a lot of fun," Brown said.
Not only was it a great week for the kids, but Brown was also happy they were able to highlight some of the local businesses as well.
"I think it's kind of a win for our families, but it's also a win for local businesses," he said. "Our goal with Merge is to build a long relationship where we can send kids here every year, so I think it's been helpful to everybody."
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.