Saturday, Jun 23, 2018

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Cultural diversity fair-1

Kwabena Owusu-Kwarteng, the Patton College's Upward Bound director, answers questions about Ghana and stamps students’ “passports.”

Photographer: Kim Barlag

Cultural diversity fair-2

Kgosietsile Velempini describes Botswana to Vinton County High School Principal Kevin Waddell and students.

Photographer: Kim Barlag

Cultural diversity fair-3

Cynthia Agyeman and Grace Annor explain what languages, food, music and entertainment are found in Ghana.

Photographer: Kim Barlag

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The Patton College brings the world to Vinton County High School

While many of the students at Vinton County High School might never travel the world, on Friday, March 21, the world came to them. The first Vinton County Cultural Diversity Fair transformed the school's gym into an international hub of diversity awareness.

International students from Ohio University’s Patton College of Education, many connected with the African Educational Research Network, packed up items from their native countries and headed to the school to teach about diversity.

At the middle of the gym, arranged by continents, representatives from nearly 30 countries provided colorful displays and informative presentations about their cultures. The students from AERN, an organization started nearly 25 years ago to improve education in Africa, answered students’ questions from within a circle of tables representing the continent of Africa.

Surrounding the metaphorical globe was a celebration of the students’ own Appalachian culture. Displays represented the region's music, art, quilt-making, and coal mine experiences. Students, with school-supplied "passports" in hand, asked the presenters questions, earning stamps from each country.

Kwabena Owusu-Kwarteng, The Patton College's Upward Bound director, represented his homeland of Ghana. He, along with Cynthia Agyeman, Ph.D. student in Instructional Technology, and Grace Annor, Ed.D. student in Education Administration, explained what languages, food, music, and entertainment are found in Ghana. Kgosietsile Velempini, Ph.D. student in Teacher Education, represented Botswana. Education Administration Ph.D. student Adedayo Ogundimu spoke about his home in Nigeria. Peter Mwangi and Mary Gathogo, both Ph.D. students in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs, taught about Kenya, and Heyam Abo-Alasrar, Ph.D. student in Instructional Technology, presented on her home country, Yemen.

“Our kids don’t get to travel much,” said Vinton County High School Principal Kevin Waddell. “Some don’t get out of the county. We thought this event was important to open their minds to others and the way they live and to overcome stereotypes and gain appreciation of our friends around the world.”

Organizer and high school Spanish teacher Gildy Smith added, “This is critical as we don’t have diversity in our school. This fosters respect for other cultures, as well as their own Appalachian culture. And when they go to college where there is more diversity, it is not as much of a shock.”

Vinton County High School is a strong recruiter school for Ohio University and The Patton College. PCOE Associate Dean for Academic Engagement and Outreach, Dr. John Henning, worked with the school organizers to bring several of the international students to the fair to represent their home countries.

“I was very impressed with how well the Diversity Fair was organized and by the enthusiasm of the Vinton students. They asked great questions of the international presenters,” said Henning. “Plus, it was a great opportunity for us to expose our international students to American schools.”

Principal Waddell agreed the event was beneficial to all who attended. He noted that the world is changing and becoming much smaller. For high school students and Ohio University students alike, the world was smaller for at least one day at Vinton County High School.