BHSU Students Travel to Philippines to Teach and learn

On day one as the bus drove into the mountains of Cebu in the Philippines, twelve Black Hills State University students and faculty anxiously waited for their arrival at Sudlon National High School. As soon as the bus pulled through the gates of the school they were surrounded by children curious and excited to meet them. They took a deep breath and stepped off the bus into the crowd and greeted as many as they could before they were led to a stage. As they sat on the stage for the welcoming ceremony they watched as students performed dances from Fil-ipino and American cultures. After the welcome, it was time to go into the classrooms where they spent the next three days prepared to teach these students, but they also learned so much from them at the same time.

“Words can’t even begin to describe the connection I felt with my students. They were so welcoming in letting us come into their classrooms. We were all very nervous once we ar-rived at the school, but all it took was an hour for us to become comfortable enough with the students. They are such talented kids, and taught me so many important things about love, life, and myself,” said biology major Alicia Benz.

Benz recalled how the younger children show respect for their elders. They gently take your hand and place it on their forehead.

“I will never forget the first child that did this to me. He was probably six years old, and was so nervous to talk to me, so instead, he grabbed my hand, placed it to his head and smiled at me,” she said.

BHSU students worked in the high school classrooms, while Dr. Jane Klug, director of student services, had the opportunity to experience the elementary classrooms.

“I was humbled by how eager and appreciative the children and teachers were to learn about our culture. More so, I was honored to learn from them about their lives, culture and dreams,” said Klug.

History and mass communications major Hugh Cook described his time in the classroom as a positive experience. He said the students were nice to work with and their dedication to their educational pursuits were admirable.

“The children, especially the younger ones, displayed a level of respect that I would con-sider almost unheard-of in the States. They were quiet and obedient from what I saw and made a point to come over and touch your hand and smile,” explained photography major Richard Walbe

Benz said that she was just as excited to learn from the students as they were to learn from her.

“They were so excited when we asked them to sing us a song, dance, draw a picture, or even teach us their language. All of the students were so talented at the school, so we had a really cool experience of being able to mix our cultures together in ways that I would’ve never thought were possible,” said Benz.

At the end of day three it was time to say goodbye. Children wanting pictures and auto-graphs surrounded the students. They were once again led to the stage for a closing ceremony. Near the end of the ceremony, the high school students lined up to give their BHSU teachers homemade cards thanking them for coming to their school and even referred to them as their idols. The BHSU students found it amazing that such a huge impact could be made in just a few days of working with these children.

“I’m so proud of the work we did and the lives we touched. At the same time, my life has been blessed by this learning experience and the kind and gracious people of the Philippines,” said Klug.