LA mayor paves way for students

Updated: 2011-12-06 07:29

By Chen Jia (China Daily)

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LA mayor paves way for students
United States students apply for visas at the Consulate-General of China in Los Angeles in August, months before they traveled to study in China. [Mao Jianjun/China News Service]

BEIJING - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa vowed on Monday to provide more opportunities for LA-area high school students from underserved communities to study in China.

"This program will create life-changing opportunities for our young people to travel to a new country, learn about a new culture and meet new friends," he said at a news briefing in Beijing.

Most of them have never studied overseas nor even "been in an airplane before".

Leading a delegation of 21, Villaraigosa started his Asian trip on Sunday in Beijing. The delegation will also visit Chongqing and Shanghai during the coming week.

Villaraigosa announced a recently established partnership between LA and charitable foundations dedicated to promoting educational exchanges between China and the US at the news briefing.

Los Angeles is the latest city to throw its support behind the "100,000 Strong Initiative", a program launched by the US Department of State to increase the number of US students studying in China over the next four years.

Citing the strategic importance of the US-China relationship, President Barack Obama announced the "100,000 Strong Initiative" in November 2009. The national effort is meant to increase the number and diversify the composition of US students studying in China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the initiative in May 2010 in Beijing.

The initiative aims to prepare a next generation of US experts on China who will be charged with managing the growing political, economic and cultural ties between the two nations, according to the US Department of State. It also strives to develop opportunities and funding sources for underrepresented students to study in China.

The initiative is a public-private partnership, and private corporate and foundation donors have pledged more than $11 million toward it. The Chinese government has offered 20,000 scholarships for US students.

The Los Angeles mayor's office will cooperate with two nonprofit organizations - Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) and the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation Beijing - to promote the program.

"We believe strongly that young people from China and the US will be highly influential in the 21st century. Our two great nations have the opportunities now to work together to build a brighter future, and understanding and friendship between us will be crucial to making that dream a reality," Villaraigosa said.

Ted Dean, APSA co-founder, told China Daily on Monday that APSA has helped more than 100 US high school students to study in China in the past four years.

As for the new program, "students will be chosen from applicants who had studied Chinese in high school for one or two years", he said.

He noted that APSA runs full-scholarship programs for US high school students from underserved communities to study in Beijing, focusing on languages acquisition, cultural understanding, leadership development and exposure to international careers.

The Ministry of Education said this year that the country plans to use cooperative educational programs to draw 500,000 foreign students to China by 2020.