Our students at Brother Rice High School, an all-boys school on the border of Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park in Chicago, IL, recently celebrated the Chinese New Year by volunteering at the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum through an ongoing service project and community partnership established by their Cambridge Network support service coordinator, Audra Murray.
The students volunteered with children at the museum to craft Chinese New Year lanterns, dragons and red envelopes, otherwise known as “hang bao.”
Volunteer projects and service learning helps international students interact with American culture in a unique way. Students are able to meet their American peers and work productively on projects together. Audra says, “Creating a volunteer partnership with the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn offers the international students an opportunity to work with children. Many of them are only children themselves, and more than likely, students would not have had an experience like this in their home country.”
“The partnership with the Children’s Museum is a crucial step in establishing a niche for the international programs in the Oak Lawn community.” Volunteering at the Children’s Museum helps international students carve out a special role, helping them feel a sense of belonging to the community in Oak Lawn.
International students share their culture with a community in volunteer roles and become more familiar with American culture while volunteering. Audra, who supports the international students from the moment they arrive for their studies in the United States, explains, “the stability of regular volunteer projects allows the students to gain a sense of familiarity with their surroundings, as well as provides the Museum a sense of dependability. The community is able to recognize the students, the international programs and the schools.”
Senior and third year student at Brother Rice, Zilin “Paul” Zhang, affirms that, “working at the children’s museum is a very unique experience that I wouldn’t ever have in China. Because I have a lots of opportunities to talk to different parents and kids. …and all of them are very interested in Chinese culture. I am also very proud to teach them something about China. This volunteer work really has made me a better student and a better person.”
Audra hopes to expand the partnership next school year to include several female international students anticipated to attend Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, the all-girls school that shares a campus with Brother Rice. Her goal is to create enriching co-educational opportunities for her students during their time at Brother Rice and McAuley while serving the local community.