On December 5, 2019, 115 high school students from across North Carolina gathered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the fifth annual Learning Through Languages High School Research Symposium. The event was organized by six area studies centers at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University, including the UNC African Studies Center; Carolina Asia Center; Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies; UNC Center for European Studies; UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies; and the UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
The Learning Through Languages High School Research Symposium is an opportunity for high school students to conduct and present research on global topics in their world language of study. Students participating in this year’s program presented in Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. Forty-two teams participated from the following high schools: Cannon School, Carrboro High School, Chapel Hill High School, Charles E. Jordan High School, Chatham Charter School, Durham Academy, East Chapel Hill High School, East Mecklenburg High School, Harding University High School, Jordan-Matthews High School, KIPP Pride High School, Lincoln Charter School, Marvin Ridge High School, Myers Park High School, NC School of Science and Mathematics, Needham Broughton High School, Saint Mary’s School, South Iredell High School, Trinity High School and Wake Forest High School.
Each student team participating in the symposium wrote a research paper in their world language of study and developed a visual project (such as a poster board, model or slides) that highlighted key research findings. Teams researched topics related to Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa and Russia and Eastern Europe. Paper topics ranged from the effects of cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire to the impact of China’s economic development across Asia. During the symposium, the teams presented their research in their language of focus to faculty, staff and student judges from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University and Durham Technical Community College.
Ambassador Kathryn Crockart, Diplomat-in-Residence of the mid-Atlantic region for the United States Department of State, provided welcoming remarks for the program. Ambassador Crockart congratulated participating students and emphasized that learning different languages opens many doors, including career opportunities. “U.S. diplomats must be able to connect effectively with people around the world,” Crockart shared. “Many diplomats spend months or even years of their careers learning to speak the languages that serve as the foundation of respectful relationships with entire populations. When language foundations are strong, we’re better at building trust, sharing our values and expanding global peace, prosperity and justice.”
During the closing ceremony, Anne Marie Gunter, World Languages Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, presented awards to each school that participated. All schools received a plaque recognizing their participation in the program. Student teams were evaluated according to a rubric, and awarded a rating based on the number of points they earned. Judges rated teams as either Superior, Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor.
Special celebrations to highlight the fifth anniversary of Learning Through Languages included a video message from one of the founding organizers of the program, Emily Chávez, now Director of Equity and Justice at the Duke School, as well as an anniversary cake shared among the students, teachers and judges.