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WKU Confucius Institute reaches out to unique populations in community

In an effort to more fully realize its mission of disseminating Chinese language and culture, the WKU Confucius Institute (WKU-CI) has been reaching out to unique populations both on campus and within the Warren County community.

Two volunteer teachers working at the WKU Confucius Institute, Shanfeng Guo (above left) and Xiaolin Tian (above right), have provided Chinese language and culture classes to residents of the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center and to students enrolled in classes with the Kelly Autism Program at WKU.

The two volunteer teachers working at the WKU-CI, Shanfeng Guo and Xiaolin Tian, have recently had the opportunity to teach Chinese language and culture classes to residents of the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center, as well as students enrolled in classes with the Kelly Autism Program. Leaders at the WKU-CI feel it is important to not only offer learning experiences to area schools and the community in general, but to also provide its services to what are sometimes overlooked populations.

Rebecca Painter, a teacher at the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center, said: “The mission has consistently focused on educating this at-risk population rather than incarcerating.  The goal has been and continues to be unconditional positive regard and educational programming that will make our students successful. Not only are the children enriched by our arts and humanities programming, the adults are also touched and rejuvenated by their hard work.”

Guo agreed. “I do not think they are different from other kids,” she said. “When they work with me, I feel so happy. What’s in my mind is to try my best to teach them more and let them know more so they can fly high.”

Program manager for the Kelly Autism Program, Dr. Alok Amraotkar, said: “Research has shown that visual learning is very important for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. A colorful exhibition of the Chinese lifestyle at the Confucius Institute’s Chinese Learning Center appeals to the sensory needs of KAP participants. Learning basic Chinese characters and phrases, taught by the CI volunteer teachers, is a major attraction, which also helps participants understand and retain information about this far-away land.”

This is Tian’s first time working with these diverse populations. “When I watched those students learn Chinese at the Detention Center, I forgot that they were different from others,” she said. “It was just the same case with the Kelly Autism students. When they guessed the meaning of the Chinese characters I wrote on the blackboard, they tried so hard and gave me some very imaginative answers.”

The WKU-CI and Hanban, China’s Ministry of Education, work to promote understanding of the Chinese language and culture through children’s programming, training courses, cultural workshops and community events. Together, these organizations have Introduced fully articulated K-16 instruction in Modern Standard Chinese into local school systems, serve as a regional center for Chinese teacher training and Chinese curriculum development, and build connections and partnerships between Kentucky and China.

Contact: Cheryl Kirby-Stokes, (270) 745-2836.

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