Reflections from Participants in the "Hefner Initiative - USA/China/Asia" 2017 Summer Program

August 17, 2017
By Lucy Carr

For this year's Hefner Initiative, four American high school students and two adult chaperones traveled to Beijing and Suzhou. The students stayed with families from Beijing High School No. 4, learning about Chinese family life. While in Beijing, the group visited many historic sites including the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall of China, and the Capital Museum. The group then took a bullet train to Suzhou, where they took a cruise on the ancient city canals and visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Suzhou Museum, the Opera Museum, and learned about traditional silk spinning and embroidery.

“I had believed China to be very uniform, and that the government requires conformity to their own principles, but this was hardly the case … China today is far more diverse and multi-faceted than I would have believed from reading about it.”

-Anthony Villalobos, Hefner Scholar-Webb

 “China’s senior citizens impressed me greatly and made me realize that regardless of the current political relationship of the two nations, the people of the two nations can always be enthusiastic towards each other and willing to turn a complete stranger into a friend.”
-Georgia Newman, Hefner Scholar-Webb

“As an American that went to China I plan on encouraging more people of different races to visit China because the country is beautiful and rich in an interesting history. I also hope to revisit the country again one day.”
-Chinwe Okere, Hefner Scholar-OSSM

 “We had amazing home cooked meals while they told me about the actual life in China, not the general idea people tell tourists to satisfy them … I could not have asked for a better host family, and I am so very grateful that I was lucky enough to have been paired with Icey. Living with Icey showed me how welcoming Chinese families could be.”
-Shania Do, Hefner Scholar- OSSM

 “After my Hefner Ambassador experience, as I reflect, I realize that I had a number of ideas of what I would find that were, to say the least, inaccurate. In my mind, this kind of realization is what is imperative to truly make the most change in the relations between the U.S. people and the Chinese people.”
-Sara Marie Bodenstein, Hefner Ambassador-OSSM

“I believe now more than ever that the next generation of Chinese and American leaders must find ways to recognize difference, appreciate each other’s rich cultures, beliefs and interests. To achieve this, it will be important to connect young leaders from both countries with established leaders on both sides to take on the responsibility of safeguarding peace and enhancing mutual growth in the future.” 
-Neal Piper, Hefner Ambassador-Presidential Precinct

The Robert & MeiLi Hefner Foundation Announces the "Hefner Initiative – USA/ China/ Asia” 2017 Scholars and Ambassadors

March 1, 2017
By Lucy Carr

The Robert & MeiLi Hefner Foundation is pleased to announce that the 2017 Hefner Scholars are Chinwe Okere and Shania Do from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and Georgia Newman and Anthony Villalobos from The Webb Schools. The 2017 Hefner Ambassadors are Sara Marie Bodenstein, Mathematics Professor at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and Neal Piper, Executive Director of the Presidential Precinct, a nonprofit organization in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The "Hefner Initiative - USA/ China/ Asia” 2017 program comprises an approximately 10-day cultural experience in Beijing and Suzhou, China. The trip will consist of six days spent in Beijing, during which the Hefner Scholars will stay with host families of students from Beijing High School No. 4, experiencing daily life in China firsthand. The group will explore the ancient city’s landmarks such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China, along with visiting the National Museum and enjoying a Peking Opera performance. The group will then take a bullet train to Suzhou, a small city known for its beautiful architecture and gardens, which will allow the Scholars and Ambassadors to learn about a different dimension of Chinese culture. After their return, the Scholars and Ambassadors will write a post-trip essay and give a presentation to their community, in order to spread the knowledge they have gained on the trip and promote the importance of peaceful and cooperative relations between the two countries.

Hefner Scholars from Beijing High School No. 4 Visit the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics

March 1, 2017
By Lucy Carr

Four students from Beijing High School No. 4 spent three weeks studying at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics as part of the 2017 “Hefner Initiative USA/ China/ Asia.” This year’s Hefner Scholars were Phyllis Liu, Jenny Ju, Carmelo Zhang, and Lewis Xin. They stayed in the dorms at OSSM, attended classes and participated in school activities, as well as enjoying special outings to learn about the history and culture of Oklahoma.

This year’s program included tours of the Oklahoma History Center, Norman North High School, Oklahoma City Community College’s Film & Video Department, the University of Oklahoma campus, the Sam Noble Museum, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The Hefner Scholars also spent a weekend at the homes of their OSSM host buddies. Hefner Scholar Phyllis Liu wrote of her experience with OSSM students, “I was impressed by how enthusiastic and thoughtful they are when it comes to academics, and also overwhelmed by their kindness and warm relationships with each other … I have met so many great people and enriched my knowledge about the United States by talking and living with them.” Hefner Scholar Jenny Ju reflected on the trip, “I not only improved my academic knowledge but enriched my experience that could guide the rest of my life as well.”

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