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LU international students share cultures

A group of Lamar University international students will visit Vincent and Marshall Middle Schools this week to present programming about diversity and cultural heritage.

Thanks to a grant from Entergy, the students, who hail from India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria, will be visiting as part of the Lamar University Multicultural Awareness Program (LUMAP) and hope to share their individual cultures with the children through presentations incorporating cultural items.

“We hope this will be a starting point for better interaction and understanding between students here and the students in the middle schools,” said Helena Arthur-Okor, coordinator and Reference/Distance Learning Librarian. “We want to get the kids a little more excited about seeing other cultures, other places, or other countries.

Arthur-Okor believes that area middle schoolers will benefit the international students in return.

“We are hoping that the international students will also gain something by interacting with these children and learn a little bit more about American culture,” Arthur-Okor said. “They didn’t go to school here as children; they might not fully know how the schools or students are—just like the middle school students might not know about them. It’s a way of trying to get everybody to learn from each other.”

Along with broadening minds and opening students up to different cultures, Arthur-Okor hopes that middle school students especially will take what they have learned and use it to open the doors to make new friends with students of different backgrounds in their schools in communities instead of shying away.

“This program aims to give the kids an open mind to be able to interact with all of their peers, especially—I’m sure—other international kids who are in their classes or community who they never really interacted with to ask questions or learn from before,” Arthur-Okor said. “This is a really great way to get them to become interested in getting a taste of the world; it opens a conversation.”

Arthur-Okor also hopes that the program will make Lamar’s international student body feel more valued, celebrated, and unique.

We hope the program will make our international students feel more valued, being in a strange culture. We want everyone to know what he or she has, and what they offer to the community. We want to cherish our differences,” Arthur-Okor said.