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Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 10:45am

Mercy College's Korean language STARTALK summer program concluded on Friday, August 18, on the Dobbs Ferry campus. Billed as a “final celebration,” the event was attended by parents, and members of the faculty and administration. It included a show of Korean music and dance, performed by the schoolchildren in the program.

“STARTALK: A Student Life in Seoul,” recruited 30 students in grades 6-8 from several local school districts, all from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. During the course of the free 3-week program, the students' Korean language competency was advanced to novice/mid-level while they explored Korean family life, school life, and cultural activities. These exercises included participation in such crafts as calligraphy, drawing and dance; and entertainment through traditional and K-pop music.

According to Dr. Mi-Hyun Chung, associate professor of literacy and multi-lingual studies at Mercy's School of Education, the STARTALK program at Mercy is the only one like it for Korean language and culture in the U.S.

“With the help of technology, students can virtually visit Korean communities such as schools and traditional houses,” Chung described the program. “They are involved in many hands-on activities such as making Korean food or playing traditional games. Art and dance are also taught by Korean cultural experts.”

The children have also participated in authentic cultural practices with members of the Westchester Korean community. In all, 90 hours of immersive instructional time were provided.

But for Juliana Barros, who is entering the 7th grade at Ossining Middle School this fall, the high points of the STARTALK program at Mercy were the clothes and dancing.

“They were so much fun!” she said. “The Korean garb – we tried some on, I loved them, they were so beautiful. There were different colors for royalty and other people.”

The STARTALK program at Mercy College is part of an NSA initiative that began after 9/11, when the U.S. government realized that the nation was linguistically unprepared to address situations that involved languages other than the three or four that were traditionally taught in schools.

The first STARTALK at Mercy College was such a success – will there be a reprise?

"I am in the process of writing a proposal for another grant, so we shall see," Chung teased.