Student volunteers relate to being different |

Student volunteers relate to being different

Taylor Eisenman, Of the Record staff

Leo Alonso, a sixth grader at Ecker Hill International Middle School, replicates a traditional drum for the Chinese New Year. He is learning about Park City's Chinatown while fulfilling community service hour requirements. (Scott Sine/Park Record)

Reaching out to students about Park City’s history is something Johanna Fassbender, curator of education for the Park City Museum, hopes will not only help them be more comfortable with the museum as an organization, but also "give them a sense of place because history always reflects on the future and understanding the past of a place gives you a better sense of where you are and how to identify with that."

Fassbender, along with English Language Learner student volunteers from Ecker Hill International Middle School, are visiting different apartment complexes giving presentations about Park City’s history. helping Fassbender with the activities and translating when needed, these students are fulfilling their community service hours; plus Fassbender hopes they also come away with more knowledge about where they live.

Fassbender and two student volunteers, sixth-graders Gabriele Delacruz and Leo Alonso, visited Aspen Villas Apartments on Friday, Feb. 1, to talk about the role of Chinese people in Park City and celebration of the Chinese New Year.

"I prepared the session with them [Delacruz and Alonso] and talked about the Chinese and their being discriminated against, and they said that it’s the same with us," Fassbender said. "For the Chinese, there was this discrimination based on language, and it’s interesting that they connected the past of Park City to their own present of today."

Fassbender talked with the kids at Aspen Villas about how the Chinese weren’t allowed to work in the mines because they wore different clothes and spoke a different language, and so they were considered to be very different from other immigrants.

She brought in old photographs of Park City’s once populous Chinatown, and brought in a small version of the dragons used to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The kids got to pretend like they were in a New Year’s parade by putting the dragon on their heads and marching around the office building.

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The kids said they had never seen a dragon like that except in pictures and on the TV. Alonso said he wanted to go to China someday so he could see the dragons and parades in real life.

The dragons are used to scare away an evil monster, Fassbender said. The Chinese also use the color red and made a lot of noise during their New Years celebration to help ward off the monster, she continued.

Third-grader Alma Alonso, Leo’s sister, she said came because her brother was going, but that she was having fun. Alma said if she wasn’t here she’d just be home watching TV.

Alma also wanted to participate in the Chinese New Year like her brother. "The parade looks like fun," she said. "You could be awake all night, and you get to make a lot of noise."

Leo said one of the reasons he chose to do this for his community service was because he got to hang out with his sister and other friends. Delacruz said he did this for community service because it was his only option, but he continued to say that he’s glad it worked out like that because he’s having fun and learning a lot.

Delacruz continued that before doing this community service he didn’t know any Chinese people lived here, but he said he thinks that’s cool because he can relate to them because "they would get made fun of because of how different they were."

After Fassbender discussed the history behind Park City’s Chinatown, they handed out paper plates, crayons, beads and strings so the students could make their own drums, a traditional instrument of the Chinese New Year.

Third-graders Giovanna Jaurrieta and Esmeralda Bello said they liked making the drums. "It’s fun to decorate," Bello said. "And I like coloring."

Through these outreaches, Fassbender said she not only wants to give kids fun, educational activities for them to do after school, but also to get them acquainted with and interested for when the museum reopens, which she projects will be in May 2009. "When they get older, it’s harder to reach out to them," she said.

Fassbender will be doing another after-school program about Park City’s Chinatown for the children at Parkside Apartments on Friday, Feb. 8, at 2:30 p.m.