Communities Coming Together
February 23, 2017
The Angelo State and San Angelo communities showed their compassion and generosity to great effect in February, coming to the aid of 28 visiting South Korean college students who were burglarized during a weekend excursion in San Antonio.
The Korean students were part of a collaborative student-teaching program between ASU, the San Angelo Independent School District and the Gongju National University of Education. They arrived on Jan. 15, spent a week at ASU and then spent four weeks gaining teaching experience at six local elementary schools while living with 17 host families.
Cultural excursions were also part of the program, and it was on such a trip on Jan. 28 that disaster struck. While the students and several ASU staff were exploring the shops and eateries at La Cantera retail center in San Antonio, thieves broke into the ASU vans that had been used for the trip and stole the students’ luggage, including clothes, laptops, souvenirs and other items, as well as several passports.
“We just couldn’t believe it when we got back to the vans and saw that everything was gone,” said Paula Dowler of ASU’s Center for International Studies. “The students were both devastated and confused, and we just hate that they had such a negative experience of the U.S. during the short time they were here.”
While the students did have travel insurance, it only covered a small portion of their losses and did not cover many of the personal items that were stolen. Once that was revealed, faculty and parents at Fort Concho Elementary immediately started a fundraising drive that attracted donations from numerous individuals and local businesses.
By the time the students were set to return to South Korea on Feb. 19, nearly $20,000 had been raised, enough to reimburse every student the full amount of their lost items not covered by insurance, plus an extra $100 for each student as an added gift from the community. Dr. Won-Jae Lee, ASU executive assistant (Asian relations) to the provost and VPAA, also transported the students who had lost their passports to the Korean Consulate Office in Dallas to pick up emergency replacements.
After saying an emotional farewell to the Korean students at the airport on Feb. 19, Lee sent a message to everyone involved in the collaborative teaching program and the fundraising efforts.
“Today, our San Angelo airport became a sea of tears, which indicates love and oneness of mind, no doubt whatsoever!” Lee wrote. “I strongly feel that our Korean student-teachers know the blessing of each of you as their American family member, understand how much they owe to you, and have learned from you to offer their helping hands to people in need. Also, I strongly believe that our children at the six elementary schools have learned a lot from the Korean student-teachers. Thus, this meaningful program will continue and grow year by year.”
The collaborative teaching program, which is coordinated by Lee, has already grown from eight Korean student-teachers at one local elementary school in 2016 to the 28 student-teachers who taught at six schools this year.
And now, thanks to the generosity of the ASU and San Angelo communities, this year’s participants have a much better tale of their time in Texas to take back home.