SANFORD - Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma and the CCCC Confucius Classroom on May 20 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center in Sanford.
This event honored Ma and offered a retrospective on the Confucius Classroom as it completes its ninth and final year of operation, with Chinese language training and cultural programs to continue as part of the comprehensive global education initiatives at CCCC.
"We have been able to enjoy this relationship for many, many years. As you all know, we've had the opportunity to have some great cultural events, cultural exchanges, we've had great instruction for many of our students, and best of all we have established great friendships," said CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman. "There was great value for us in this partnership. ... The community here has certainly embraced the cultural exchange and that has meant a lot to our partnership."
The Confucius Classroom has been an educational partnership created with N.C. State University's Confucius Institute and Nanjing Normal University. The Confucius Classroom promotes an intercultural exchange grounded in Chinese language courses, but offering a wide range of cultural events and activities as well.
NCSU's Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the college in April 2009 for a partnership to establish a Confucius Classroom at the college. NCSU was the first university in the United States to develop this type of partnership and Central Carolina was the first community college in the U.S. to have a Confucius Classroom.
Among those speaking at the farewell program was Sanford Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Wyhof Salmon. "For the last nine years, this program has added so much vibrancy to our community. It's ignited minds and imaginations about what the possibilities could be. The Confucius Classroom has also served as a foundation for the beginning of Sanford's Sister City program," said Salmon.
The City of Sanford's Sister City is Yixing, China. "They may have initially been interested and attracted to Sanford because we have a shared cultural arts heritage with pottery. But the connections that we have through the Confucius Classroom and through the North Carolina China Council were what made this relationship really prosper," said Salmon, who talked about the Sister City program.
Dr. Jon Matthews, CCCC Confucius Classroom Director and Harnett Provost, told the audience about the history of the program at CCCC and how former CCCC President Dr. T. Eston Marchant had seen the potential in expanding learning opportunities for students based on what he had observed at Presbyterian College in his home state of South Carolina. "From its onset, the CCCC Confucius Classroom adopted and pursued a mission of facilitating an appreciation and understanding of Chinese language and culture," said Matthews.
"The Classroom's value to the College and its communities wasn't confined to language courses. Many of our local citizens know the Classroom through its role in helping facilitate the Sanford's Sister City agreement with Yixing," said Matthews. "Many others know of us by our visiting instructors' myriad visits to local schools and civic organizations - presentations that went beyond merely explaining the Classroom's functions and actually provided insights into the origins of Chinese holidays and customs - all from a native's point of view. But, perhaps the best known product of the CCCC Confucius Classroom was the range of cultural events, always free of charge to the public and typically staged in concert with our partners from N.C. State."
Matthews told the audience about how much the Chinese and American cultures are alike rather than how they are different. "Both cultures value their ancestors' traditions and accomplishments, both consider family to be a critical social structure, both value the inherent value of self-improvement and education, and both look beyond their national borders to forge friendships, partnerships, and trade."
Matthews had much praise for Yuehan Ma, who was the fourth Confucius Classroom instructor at CCCC (2016-2019). Others who have served are Guan Wang (2013-2016), Ling Huang (2011-2013), and Shuya Che (2009-2011).
"When Yuehan arrived three years ago, she assimilated into our culture as if she'd lived here for decades," said Matthews. "Yuehan doesn't merely care about her students; she values their learning and their mastery of Chinese language. Whether accompanying her students on field trips and encouraging them to interact with others in Chinese in order to make their learning more natural, or in planning and organizing her students' participation in the HSK exams, Ms. Ma strived to make her students adopt the same zeal for learning Chinese language as she did in learning American culture and in mastering the English language. She was a tireless advocate for her students' successes, and their performance in her classes (and on the HSK exams) speaks for itself."
Matthews concluded his presentation by saying, "Yuehan, your peers here at CCCC appreciate your service and dedication, but I'm sure your students will miss you the most. We wish you the best of luck and safe travel back home."
Audrey Thomas, a student at Lee Early College, spoke of her teacher, Yuehan Ma. "She is a very personable person and always made everyone in our class feel like they had a personal relationship with her," said Thomas. "One of my favorite things about Ms. Ma is how she was always offering new ways to enjoy a culture that she loves so dearly."
Thomas said the most important lesson she learned from taking this year's Chinese class was to persevere through anything and you will eventually get to your destination. "An example of this perseverance was when I was learning Chinese regarding the tones and the characters," she said. "I found it challenging, but through hard work and a little help from Ms. Ma I was able to connect the dots and it made me want to learn even more."
In closing, Thomas read a sentence that she wrote in Chinese - then repeated it in English: "We hope to see you again. We will miss you. We love you and I love you, too. Thank you!"
Yuehan Ma said she is grateful for what the past three years has given her. "I've witnessed the growth of my students, their ambition in exploring and bridging themselves with the outside world using the knowledge they learned," she said.
She thanked many individuals, including special thanks to Dr. Yan Wei, of the Confucius Institute, who attended the event. "She is not only a supervisor, but also a caring friend," said Ma. "She is the one that I wish to model in terms of leadership."
Ma continued: "I love my students, and I love CCCC. Sanford has become my second hometown. In closing, I want to restate something I said at my welcome reception - Language is one of the most beautiful things in the world. It connects you and me. It brings us together. Departure is for now; reunion will be for tomorrow."
Music for the program was provided by the Crescent Chinese Music Studio.
To learn more about Central Carolina Community College and its programs, visit www.cccc.edu.
Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma and the CCCC Confucius Classroom.
Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma and the CCCC Confucius Classroom. Yuehan Ma is pictured in center with CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman at left and CCCC Harnett Provost Dr. Jon Matthews at right.
The Crescent Chinese Music Studio provided music when Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma and the CCCC Confucius Classroom.
Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma (pictured here at podium) and the CCCC Confucius Classroom.
Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma and the CCCC Confucius Classroom. Here, student Audrey Thomas speaks to the audience.
Central Carolina Community College hosted a Ninth Anniversary and farewell honoring Yuehan Ma and the CCCC Confucius Classroom. Yuehan Ma is pictured at right with Sanford Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Wyhof Salmon.