Valley high school students tour China
A group of 32 local high school students, three teachers and five parents spent spring break experiencing Chinese culture firsthand.
The students, all from Grand Junction High except for three Palisade High School students, traveled March 20-28 to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai with Grand Junction High teachers Justin Whiteford, Megan Read and Mark Carris.
Whiteford took 12 Grand Junction High students to China during spring break 2012 and decided to repeat the experience for more students in 2013.
“They can now speak (about China) from firsthand knowledge. That is invaluable,” White- ford said.
The trip included visits to famous sites such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta warriors, but students also got a taste of local flair by visiting a 97-year-old man’s house, which was built in the 1400s, and visiting with tour guides and residents about Chinese culture.
Grand Junction High senior Jessica Deters, 18, said she expected to see signs of an oppressive government and downtrodden people when she arrived but was surprised to find people wanted to communicate with them.
“They embrace you, they were asking us if they could take pictures with us. You never felt unwelcome,” she said.
Seventeen-year-old Madalyn Stewart, a junior at Grand Junction High, said she wanted to go on the trip because she has always been fascinated with Chinese history. She said she enjoyed visiting a communal housing development and found people were very trusting of their neighbors.
“I was surprised how community-based they are,” she said.
Whiteford said students picked up on air and water pollution issues in China and even wore masks in Xian.
They also learned about the long history of China at a number of aging landmarks and saw a variety of Chinese cities. Beijing was more government-oriented, while Shanghai had a more cosmopolitan feel.
“Beijing is like Washington (D.C.), while Shanghai is more like New York City,” Whiteford said.
Whiteford said he plans to take students to a different locale next year, probably Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
India or Brazil are possibilities for 2015.