vendredi 17 août 2012

Students from Haiti experience American culture in Ridgewood

THURSDAY AUGUST 16, 2012, 3:07 PM BY DARIUS AMOS The concept of recycling was so foreign to Belony that the 18-year-old Haitian boy struggled to even pronounce the word. Nonetheless, the teen needed just one trip to Ridgewood's reprocessing plant on East Glen Avenue to grasp recycling's global significance.
Ridgewood Councilman Tom Riche meets with visiting Haitian students in the courtroom at Village Hall. "I learned that they used garbage to make other things. They gave me a pencil [made from recycled materials]. We can work with garbage to do many things," he said. "Maybe we can do this [in Haiti]." Constructive thinking, such as Belony's hopes of bringing recycling to his home country, is the ultimate goal of the U.S. State Department's Youth Ambassador Program, which concluded Wednesday after the participants, 20 Haiti teenagers, spent two weeks visiting landmarks and meeting with officials in Washington D.C., New York City and Ridgewood. The program is meant and designed to give outstanding overseas students the opportunity to experience American culture and learn about education, public services and government operations. The Ridgewood YMCA participates in the initiative through its World Services Program, an international effort that aids in the development of children and teenagers. "It helps them create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. In this regard, we, as part of the Ridgewood community, have so much to be thankful for and, conversely, so much to share," Peter Kurshan, president of the Ridgewood YMCA Board of Directors, wrote in a letter to the community. The group spent most of the early part of this week touring Ridgewood and its facilities. On Monday, the teens and their supervisors from the Y met with doctors and staff at The Valley Hospital. In the evening, they played a friendly game of soccer against Ridgewood students under the lights at the high school. For Aramy, 18, his most memorable part of the trip took place on the final day in Ridgewood. "My favorite part was when we were meeting [Councilman Tom Riche] and he told us about Ridgewoodand the villages in New Jersey," he said. Riche met with the teenagers and described his work as an elected official and the role of the residents as voters. He and Village Manager Ken Gabbert also explained the various structures of local government and the challenges that each municipality faces. "It's a lot of work, and the residents are very demanding," Riche said. "But it's very rewarding because you're always helping people." Following a brief question-and-answer period, Riche provided each student with a key to the village. Officer Sal D'Amico led the youth ambassadors on a tour through police headquarters, where the teens sat in a prisoner holding cell and even tried on a pair of handcuffs. Cosny, 18, showed his playful side when he ran off with the holding cell key after locking his buddies inside. "In Haiti, [prisoners] are not treated nicely," Aramy said. "This is different. Although they are prisoners here, they are still respected. [Police] know that prisoners have rights." Experiencing cultural and societal differences between America and his country, Belony said, was the most exciting part of the trip. He hopes many aspects of the American way of life will one day be adopted in Haiti. "I am excited to see the way people live," he said. "It's amazing to see people accept ideas of others, they accept opinions of others." But comfort and security was all Aramy needed. "In Ridgewood," Aramy said, "I feel safe. That's what I enjoy the most." Email: amos@northjersey.com http://www.northjersey.com/news/166443586_Students_from_Haiti_experience_American_culture_in_Ridgewood.html?page=all

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