School to host cultural exchange program, second WLSA conference

As a founding member of the World Leading Schools Association, Harvard-Westlake will host the second annual WLSA Student Conference in July. The school will also launch a new summer program, the World Youth Leadership Institute, which will take place the week before the WLSA conference.

In conjunction with the WLSA conference, the school will host the first Hudnut Cup, a soccer tournament named after former President Tom Hudnut; it will feature between six and eight teams comprised of students attending the World Youth Leadership Institute and the WLSA conference.

The association focuses on collaboration between secondary schools in China and the West, including South Africa, Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. To attend a WLSA conference, the students must speak either Mandarin or English. Initially, the organization was devoted to administrators, as a way of determining the best methods of teaching and curriculum, but WLSA expanded to host its inaugural student conference in Shanghai last July. Around 120 students attended the conference, including 13 from Harvard-Westlake.

“I had the chance to communicate with other Chinese students and spending time with those students really gave me a new perspective on Chinese culture,” Joss Saltzman ’16 said. “I’ve been studying Chinese for six years now and it was really enjoyable to put all that studying to use.”

Saltzman is also part of the planning committee for this year’s WLSA conference.

“The goal is to replicate that cultural exchange and for us to be able to reciprocate so that the Chinese students can experience our culture,” Saltzman said. “Last year we had a lot of chances to go exploring in the Shanghai area. The idea is to provide similar experiences. Some of the things that we are suggesting are a trip to Hollywood and the Griffith Observatory to really let the Chinese students immerse themselves in our culture.”

“If you’re coming from inner Mongolia for a conference, you want to see Los Angeles, you want to see Hollywood, you want to see Kanye [West],” Head of Upper School Audrius Barzdukas said.

The World Youth Leadership Institute will bring students from China to study at Harvard-Westlake along with students from the Los Angeles area. The program will focus on Western and Eastern style leadership, globalization, international relations and international economics.

“It will be an intensive course in leadership and the challenges of leading in a hyper-connected world,” Barzdukas said.

“There is a significant amount of interest from the East, particularly China, to come to the U.S. for educational programs,” upper school dean Jim Patterson said. “A lot of it has developed because there is an increasing interest from Chinese students to attend college in the West. In order to help to prepare for that transition, there is a lot of interest in Chinese students attending summer programs in the U.S. at independent schools and boarding schools.”

The school hopes to expand the World Youth Leadership Institute to two weeks starting the summer of 2015 and possibly expand to three weeks in the next five to eight years. Patterson also said he would like to see it develop to the point where financial aid can be granted to students attending the program. He anticipates that between 30 and 40 students total will participate in the program, focused on leadership development. Patterson hopes that those students will stay another week and attend the WLSA student conference.

“I see a tremendous educational opportunity for both Harvard-Westlake students and L.A. area students to have a cultural exchange and to be in the classroom with students from China,” Patterson said. “The Chinese educational system is a bit different than the Western educational system. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for [Harvard-Westlake] as well, to tap into this market and provide an opportunity for Harvard-Westlake and Los Angeles area students beyond what they can find in a traditional high school environment from September through June.”

The idea for the Hudnut Cup came from Barzdukas and WLSA executive director Jack Geagh. The tournament will run for four days in conjunction with the WLSA student conference and will only feature boys’ teams. Three Chinese scools and one Canadian school have committed to play in the tournament.

“Mr. Hudnut is a busy man, but we hope that Mr. Hudnut can present the first ever Hudnut Cup,” Barzdukas said.

The students attending the World Youth Leadership Institute and the WLSA conference will be housed in the UCLA dormitories.

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