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Young Scholars students in Baldwin Township learn about each other's cultures

Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Students at Young Scholars Charter School of Western Pennsylvania last week studied the cultures of their classmates. Students at the school have lived in Vietnam, Jordan, Kenya, Bangladesh, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Zambia.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Most of Augustine Chibinga's sixth-grade classmates never knew the youngster once lived in Zambia.

“I thought he was just from Africa or America,” said classmate Shanna Bates, 11, of Carrick.

People often mistakenly assume the 12-year-old came to the United States from Kenya, he said, and have little knowledge of the southern African country where he was born.

“Most people don't even know what Zambia is,” said Chibinga, of Beechview. “I'm not surprised, though.”

Chibinga had the chance to share information about the food, culture and economy of his homeland with students at Young Scholars of Western PA Charter School in Baldwin Township on Feb. 21 during the second annual International Mother Language Day Celebration.

Students in the school's nine classrooms spent the day studying a different nationality, representing the countries their classmates. Nations studied included Vietnam, Jordan, Kenya, Bangladesh, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Zambia and the United States.

“It's kind of a melting pot,” school CEO Alpaslan Ozdogan said of the United States and, on a smaller scale, Young Scholars school. “The kids come from all different cultures. We are very diverse.”

The multilingual school, where all students are taught Spanish and Turkish, often celebrates different cultures, Ozdogan said. This helps the students be prepared for the future, he said.

“They're globalized,” Ozdogan said. “They can say, ‘Hey, I already know about that country.'”

The students also get to learn more about those whom they sit next to each day.

Bates said she was “just happy” to know more about Zambia and, in turn, Chibinga.

“That was cool,” she said. “It's like taking a whole new subject.”

Having an “expert” in the class to share firsthand stories about the countries only adds to the learning, said third-grade teacher Carly McPartland, whose class studied Mexico.

“Every place, like every person, has a different story,” she said. “We have students in the school that come from these countries. It's something that we want to celebrate.”

Third-grader Diego Ortega-Cavara, 8, who lived in Mexico for a year, brought a flag from his native land and Spanish documents to show his classmates.

“I thought it was fun. It was about a country that I haven't learned much about,” said third-grader Nicholas Spang, 8, of Overbrook. “He told me he was from Mexico last year, and I said, ‘That's cool. I wish I was from another country.'”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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