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The China Connection will lead you to take a look at how China's growth as a world power has already affected Missourians, and what we should expect for the future. It focuses on Missouri-China links in three areas: economy, education and culture.The China Connection is a production of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and KBIA. This multimedia reporting project is produced by reporters Chenfei Zhang, Eva Dou and Rachel Rice.

Missouri military high school cultivates ties with China

Missouri Military Academy in Mexico has long prided itself in creating young leaders, boasting a one hundred percent college acceptance rate for the past decade. This academic year the school has started a Chinese language program, and is considering an exchange program in China.

In a dimly lit classroom on the third floor of Missouri Military Academy, students are learning Chinese. They slump in their chairs as high school boys are prone to do, but their cadet uniforms give them an air of structure and discipline, two characteristics highly prized here. Everything, including the Chinese language program, which was added just this year, is designed to give them bright futures.

“When Chinese opened up, I thought that’d be just awesome to take. Chinese later in life after college could take me places, I mean, I could have that extra edge on the guy that doesn’t speak Chinese,” sophomore Chad Cardott said.

Missouri Military Academy used to offer French, but as president Bob Flanagan explains, the administration felt it should teach a language that was more relevant to the students’ career prospects.

“We ended up focusing then on Chinese, because … there’s a lot of business enterprises that are cooperating with the Chinese, there’s a lot of involvement with the United States and China. So we felt that that was going to grow, and that we could help in our way by teaching that language here for our cadets,” Flanagan said.

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Guiseffi is the dean of the academy. Earlier this year, he took two dozen students on a trip to China. The trip was the first of its kind.

“It was basically a mix of historical and cultural. So you know, they’re seeing Tiananmen Square, they’re seeing the Great Wall of China, but they’re also visiting a Chinese tea house. And they’re also learning how to write ancient Chinese calligraphy,” Guiseffi said.

Also for the first time this year, a group from China came to Missouri Military Academy to get a taste of American life. The school hopes that visit will encourage some of the Chinese students to enroll here. Chinese student Ziqing Zeng has been studying at the school for two years. He says his parents sent him there for several reasons.

“They think it will help me build discipline and, on the other hand, it helps me get into a good college. Because I know that the US colleges really likes student who graduate from military high school,” Zeng said.

Flanagan says many Chinese parents are intrigued by the academy’s focus on leadership and character development – two lessons missing from most Chinese school curricula. He hopes to continue Missouri Military Academy’s relationship with schools in China, and hopes it blossoms into a partnership beneficial for both parties.

“They would like to open up an agreement with us that we send cadets to China which I would like to do as well, so if we can work something out that our boys can go for perhaps a little shorter time, then we may do that, we may send a teacher over there and open up a little bit more of a dialogue and a cooperation,” Flanagan said.

Guiseffi says the school is always looking to develop new programs in China. One program currently under consideration is a leadership camp.

This story is part of The China Connection, a multimedia project that explores various economic, educational and cultural links between Missouri and China.  More at The China Connection.

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