WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nine public school students from Olongapo City are helping shape a positive picture of the Philippines and strengthen people-to-people ties with the United States through an educational exchange program with the city of Virginia Beach in Virginia.
The nine students make up the first delegation from Olongapo to participate in an exchange program under a sister city agreement with Virginia Beach that was made possible with the help of Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. and the Philippine Embassy.
The nine students from the Regional Science High School (RSHS) and Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS) arrived in Virgnia Beach last week to participate in the exchange program with Tallwood High School. They are accompanied by Councilor Jong Cortez and teachers Miguel Esporas and Lovella Jarobel.
The students, who are staying with foster families in Virginia Beach, are: Thea Ysobel Cortez, Frezniel Bien Salinas, Jonas Exequiel Soriano, John Daniel Mendoza, Ethan Arcelao, Keana McCoy, Via Ronquillo, Juliana Mendoza and Dainty Jewel Manuel.
The students paid a courtesy call on Ambassador Cuisia, who initiated the exchange between during a visit to Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach last year. During their call, the students told the Ambassador that aside from discussing Philippine history and culture, they also try to get their American classmates to learn more about the country through song and dance.
“I wish to congratulate you, your parents, your schools, and Olongapo City for this milestone in your young academic lives. I hope youth exchanges like these help build friendships between students, families, schools, and cities as well as renew and reinvigorate our bilateral ties with the United States,” Ambassador Cuisia said.
The envoy, who initiated the successful Filipino-American Youth Leaders Program that brings young Filipino-American leaders to the Philippines for discussions with government officials and private sector leaders, said he wanted to come up with a program for the younger generation.
“During our visit to Virginia Beach, I learned about the existing program they have with countries like Germany, Israel, and Indonesia, and I expressed my desire to have something similar with the Philippines,” said Ambassador Cuisia.
The delegation from Olongapo will be staying in Virginia Beach for two weeks before visiting other US cities. A delegation of 10 students from Tallwood High School will be going to Olongapo for the second phase of the exchange program in June.
The Olongapo students, who attend daily classes at Tallwood, describe the experience as “once in a lifetime” and “rewarding.” They also noted some differences in the school system of the two countries.
“In the Philippines, students stay put while teachers go
around to different classrooms. Here in the US, teachers move from classroom to classroom,” said Keana, a 9th grade student from the Regional Science High School.
“We were able to experience classes we don’t have in the Philippines, like French,” said Daniel, a 9th grader from Olongapo City National High School.
During their visit to Washington, the students were also able to go to the White House where they were received by Executive Chef Cristeta Conerford who gave the students M&Ms and official candies of President Barack Obama. They also went on a tour of the US Congress. Both visits were coordinated by Filipino-American Community leader Bing Branigin.