It’s a voyage of discovery as Danish official visits P.S. 186

April 1, 2016 Jaime DeJesus
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A local public school is broadening its horizons.

As part of a new program called Global Junior Partners, the Consul General of Denmark, Anne Dorte Riggelsen, visited P.S. 186 (7601 19th Avenue) on Wednesday, March 23 to discuss her native country.

“This is the first year that we introduced the program,” said Nicholas Frangella, assistant principal at the school. “It’s kind of a modern pen pal system, and the students get excited to write and respond to their peers in other countries, students their age that come from different backgrounds. It’s a way for them, especially many of our students who are learning English for the first time, to practice writing in English and learning about other cultures.”

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GJP, a program of NYC Global Partners, is sponsored by the mayor’s office. It’s a hybrid online and text-based program in which students put some time in, reading and writing, but they also go online and write back and forth to students in other countries about specific topics.

Riggelsen discussed everyday life in Denmark, pointing out the similarities and differences to America. She also brought up influences from her native country that have contributed to this country, such as Legos, which began in Denmark in 1934. The students were also fascinated to hear from Riggelsen that Walt Disney’s trips to the country helped inspire Disney theme parks.

“This is what diplomacy is all about,” she told this paper, adding that she was impressed with the children’s knowledge. “If I can reach their hearts and they have certainly reached mine. The way some of the students phrase their questions, I could see that they know a lot about life. They also know a lot about the hardships of life but they have this innocence which you could thank the school for, because it’s a safe place for them to be and that’s beautiful.”

The day meant an equal amount to the kids. “It’s been a wonderful and unforgettable experience,” said Vivian Barreto, ExpandEd director at P.S. 186. “After [Riggelsen] spoke, one of the students came to me and thanked me for giving us this wonderful opportunity. They made connections that they might not have been able to.”

Earlier, Frangella added, “Kids were using their computers to research what she was talking about, so it sparks the interest in them to learn more on their own and that’s the whole point of what we try to do here, to get them started but then to have them take ownership.”

Executive director of Global Partners Travis Hardy found the event a success. “As part of this program, they start to see themselves as diplomats for New York City,” he explained. “It’s good to actually meet a real life diplomat from Denmark. It’s both empowering and inspiring to kids to communicate with other countries.”

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