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Korean students visit Madison families in AKEEP initiative

Sangyeon Lee, from left, Columbia sixth-grader Kyle Bratt , Jimin Choi, Bob Jones freshman Courtney Bratt, Song Seung Min and Bob Jones junior Ryan Bratt enjoy a walk on a Madison neighborhood trail. (CONTRIBUTED)
Sangyeon Lee, from left, Columbia sixth-grader Kyle Bratt , Jimin Choi, Bob Jones freshman Courtney Bratt, Song Seung Min and Bob Jones junior Ryan Bratt enjoy a walk on a Madison neighborhood trail. (CONTRIBUTED)
Wongi Kim, at left, and Chaneong Oh, at right, say goodbye to host student Allen King, at AKEEP's graduation ceremony at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. King, a senior at James Clemens, is AKEEP president. (CONTRIBUTED)
Wongi Kim, at left, and Chaneong Oh, at right, say goodbye to host student Allen King, at AKEEP’s graduation ceremony at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. King, a senior at James Clemens, is AKEEP president. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Twenty high school students from South Korea visited peers at Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools with the Alabama Korean Education and Economic Partnership (AKEEP).

AKEEP involves a joint partnership with the Alabama State Department of Education, Korean government and Korean State Department of Education. In summer 2014, Madison students Allen King, Amy Elizabeth Zari and Juhi Patel visited South Korea with program’s global leadership training.

“AKEEP is unique to Alabama (and) provides an amazing cross-cultural experience and leadership training,” James Clemens senior and AKEEP President Allen King said. “I’m proud to have been a part of this program for the last three years.”

The Korean teenagers arrived in Atlanta on Jan. 29 and toured Alabama sites including Camp Chandler in Wetumpka, Montgomery landmarks, Auburn University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and arrived in Madison on Feb. 7.

To host the visitors, Madison families opened their homes for the weekend. The Korean students visited Bob Jones and James Clemens on Feb. 9. Then, they attended Space Camp through graduation on Feb. 11 and returned to Korea.

“We were very excited to be part of this cross-cultural exchange. AKEEP is a vital part of our learning experience at James Clemens,” Principal Dr. Brian Clayton said.

“One goal of AKEEP is to promote and coach diversity education, acceptance of different cultures and to broaden lifetime networks,” Bob Jones Assistant Principal Jason Quick said. “I witnessed several instances of the two cultures blending into one.”

Except for the language barrier, the visiting Koreans were “typical teenagers,” sharing many similarities with Madison teens, Quick said.

Korean students’ school day stretches from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Many live at school, returning home only two weekends monthly.

 

Ryan and Courtney Bratt, a Bob Jones junior and freshman, respectively, served as a host family. “The Korean students were very polite and lots of fun. They jumped right in to whatever we were doing,” Ryan said. “They loved the burgers at Five Guys.”

For more information, visit akeep.org.

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