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High School Students Give The Gift Of Education

by Vanessa Rabinowitz (Mercer Island High School)

Excepts -- Mercer Island Article


"Chue Moung Nam Moi." This phrase meaning "Happy New Year" was Matt Mormino's greeting to his Vietnamese audience in Dong Ha, Vietnam. Matt, a member of the WCE Goodwill Student Delegation, was speaking to a crowd of Vietnamese children who had been either physically or mentally effected as a result of the Vietnam War.

Other participants at the ceremony included Glo Ceteznik (Mercer Island High School), Rae Ann Engdahl (Eastlake High School), Jerry Joyce (WCE Board), 13 students from Mercer Island and Eastlake High Schools, and 6 adults. The WCE Delegation spent 11 days in Vietnam visiting Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang, Ha Long Bay, and Hanoi. Tours included a visit to the Vietnam War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, a tour through the Vinh Moc Tunnels near Dong Ha, a visit to the Imperial Citadel near Hue, a boat ride on the Perfume River, a climb up Marble Mountain near Hoi An, a stroll on China Beach, a cruise on Ha Long Bay, and a visit to Ho Chi Minh's Museum in Hanoi.

The purpose of the trip, however, was not sightseeing. Organized by Glo Ceteznik, the groups motive was to deliver scholarship funds to Vietnam children who had been affected by the War. Prior to the trip, approximately 6,700 children in Quang Tri Province were unable to attend school due to financial hardship. For every fifty dollars, one of these students can attend school for a year.

The delegation's goal was to raise $5,000 and support 100 disabled children. The Vietnamese were overjoyed when they received almost twice that amount. "I can't describe the emotion that we felt when we presented the scholarship money," reflected Kerry van der Burch (Mercer Island High School). Each student handed scholarship money to a Vietnamese child.

The group's Vietnamese Guide, named Chan, was amazed at the generosity of the students on the trip. He admitted that he had never seen such patience and respect in any tour group that he had guided.

The delegation was equally enthralled with Vietnam. "Traveling to Vietnam is almost an emotional kind of learning," said Betsy Rigsbee (Mercer Island High School Student), "it's a feeling that you can't get from a book. No type of learning exists that is even comparable to the actual experience."