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Student bridges miles between Sewickley, Nepal

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy senior Margaret Weber poses for a photo at the Edgeworth campus on Friday, March 14, 2014. Weber, as part of an independent study project, has orchestrated a connection between a school in Nepal and Sewickley Academy.

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

There are nearly 7,650 miles and a 10-hour time difference between Sewickley and the Bageshwori village in Nepal.

Sewickley Academy senior Margaret Weber believes the two communities, despite their distance, have a lot to teach one another.

As part of an independent study project, Weber has orchestrated a connection between academy fifth-graders and 67 students at the SAV school in Nepal.

“I originally went into this hoping to help the Nepali children be able to connect to people outside of their country,” said Weber, 18, of Sewickley Heights. “But our students can learn about Nepali culture and how students in Nepal actually live. You can read textbooks and watch videos, but there is nothing like actually talking to a Nepali student to understand what their life is like.”

Weber connected with Govinda Prasad Panthy, the founder of the Nepali school, through social media. His school educates students from age 3 to 11.

It's a different world from Sewickley, Weber said.

In Nepal, students speak some English but primarily speak Nepali. Children in the south Asian country have limited access to education and a poor literacy rate — about 72 percent of males and nearly 47 percent of females are literate.

It has been a learning experience for everyone involved, said Sewickley Academy teacher Michael-Ann Cerniglia.

“She's learning as much from her interactions with Nepal as she thought they might learn from us,” Cerniglia said. “That's really the crux of us. Our students can really learn a lot about another country that is so far away.”

Weber is pursuing the global studies diploma at Sewickley Academy and chose to focus on Nepal as part of her human geography independent study. She created a blog, titled Hands 7,642 Miles Apart, for the two schools to share videos.

But that hasn't been easy to facilitate.

Bageshwori has just one computer for the school and suffers blackouts that can last up to 14 hours at a time.

“Energy in Nepal is hydroelectric and during the dry season, they have a lot of blackouts,” Weber said.

One way Weber wants to help the village is by raising money for a solar panel with a liquid battery, which would stabilize power for lights and the computer during blackouts.

The two groups will have their first interactions as part of the academy's day of service next month. Students from the SAV school will video themselves making a craft or game common in Nepal. Fifth-grade students here will watch the video and make the crafts themselves. Those items will be sold as a fundraiser to help fund the solar panel, Weber said.

The project has been an exercise in real-life problem solving, Cerniglia said.

“What Margaret has found was really a lot of hoops to jump through in both places, in very different scenarios,” Cerniglia said. “She is accomplishing cooperation and collaboration to work with a lot of different people with different skill sets to find common ground.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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