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Friday, June 14, 2024

South Korean kids bring charm to ‘Snow White’

The Overture Center hosted a truly unique event Thursday evening. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience for me. No, there weren’t any famous musicians or artists putting on some extravagant performance. A handful of South Korean foreign exchange students, who were all between the ages of 11 and 14, did a play rendition of the classic fairy tale “Snow White.”

And let me tell you, I was wowed not only with the students’ command of the English language, but their sense of humor, level of comfort performing on stage and overall grasp of American culture were undeniably impressive.

Maybe it’s best to take a step back and explain how and why these students were performing at the Overture Center at all, because it’s an interesting story.

In July of 2012, recent UW-Madison graduate Skyler Vadner began working with Privileged Schools of America, an organization that is trying to introduce foreign students to American culture through planned visits.

This is something that no one else in the Madison area is doing, according to Vadner.

“In Madison, we are absolutely the forefront. Every school we’ve talked to has never known this program,” said Vadner. “The government of the state of Wisconsin came to our home because they’d never heard of something like this … and actually they’re benchmarking a lot of new programs in the future on ours.”

The students don’t only focus on their academics. They are introduced to a broad array of American culture. The program goes out of its way to expose students to cultural experiences.

“They have [teachers for] the cello, the violin, we have some guys that come in to do guitar,” said Vadner. We’ve also gone to a lot of museums…so we do have a lot of art because that’s Mid-West culture.”

Beth Krause, one of the students’ teachers at Holy Cross Lutheran School in Madison, was very optimistic about the whole experience with the South Korean students.

She stressed that it isn’t just good for the South Korean students, the American children benefit as well.

“It’s good for our children to have an ethnic experience and hear about other cultures,” said Krause.

It was really impressive how well all of the South Korean students spoke in English. But it wasn’t just them reciting their lines up on stage in a monotone—they were legitimately excited and happy to be performing for all of their teachers and peers.

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“They’re performing ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ obviously all in English,” said Vadner. “And it’s just a great chance for them to perform in America to their peers and teachers.”

Maybe the most telling thing was actually speaking with one of the South Korean students, Colin Park, who played Prince Charming in the play. I asked him about what he thought about his time in America, he simply told me “USA’s awesome!”

Without a doubt, Privileged Schools of America is spreading cultural awareness and acceptance among students in the Madison area. This will hopefull continute to build bonds between us and other countries.

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