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Norwalk Chinese Program Gets Boost

Neil Govani and Shaqille Simpson, juniors at the Center of Global Studies , thanked the Asia Society on Thursday for giving their school money and resources for the study of Chinese language and culture.

Govani spoke impressively in Mandarin while Simpson translated. "You gave us money so our school can be even better. Thank you very much for the Confucius Classroom," they said.

By becoming part of Asia Society's Confucius Classrooms Network, the center receives a three-year $10,000 grant to support the study of Chinese language and culture. Roslynne McCarthy, director of the center, says the funding is as important as the expertise and materials provided by the Confucius Classrooms program. The center will be able to expand its program through middle school classes and elementary clubs. The program offers funds and opportunities for summer study in China and exchange teachers from China. The center's two Mandarin teachers will receive more instructional materials and staff development.

"We want to give U.S. students opportunities to be globally competent and college ready," said Jeff Wong, the Asia Society representative who spoke to the center's students. "Our goal is to get 100 exemplary programs and showcase them throughout the country. You'll be a part of a network of best practices." The center is one of 60 programs, selected from 200 applicants, that have been selected across the country. Wong said the goal is to get to 100 by next year. In Fairfield County, Greenwich High School and Newtown High School have also been selected as Confucius Classrooms.

Simpson, a Bridgeport resident, travels an hour a day on two buses and a train to make his way to the Center for Global Studies,an inter-district magnet school located at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk that focuses on Arabic, Chinese and Japanese language, history and culture.

"I didn't want to go to an average high school," said Simpson, who will travel to China in April. "China is becoming a world power in the 21st century. This program is good for my future."

Norwalk Superintendent Susan Marks is especially excited about the possibility of language instruction for younger students. "Look at how good these students are after three years of instruction," said Marks. "Imagine their level of language if they learned it from kindergarten through 12th grade?"

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