By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — A party in Lewiston-Porter must always include a dragon. So says Confucius.
Of course, the ancient Chinese teacher and philosopher never said those words. But it didn't stop Gold Summit Martial Arts Studio from bringing one to the celebration Saturday marking the grand opening of the first public school classroom in Western New York bearing the name of one of China's historical figures.
With Saturday's event, Lew-Port's Confucius Classroom, a subsidiary of the University at Buffalo's Confucius Institute, will serve as a place for students to experience Chinese culture and language while opening up several new avenues the school can take in its growing international studies program.
"It was a long process," Lew-Port High School Principal Paul Casseri said. "I'm proud to say we can have a Confucius classroom of our own."
The classroom is part of an initiative by the Chinese government organization Hanban, which was created to help spread the culture of China and encourage learning the language. UB teamed with the organization five years ago and opened its first Confucius Classroom in Nichols school in Buffalo shortly thereafter.
But Lew-Port is the institute's first public school classroom, which expands the reach that the program can have. The institute already helped organize two week-long summer camps the past two years at the school, partnered with organizations like the Chinese Club of Western New York and Gold Summit and helped to bring Chinese teachers to the district as part of the exchanges.
Lew-Port was already doing much of this before UB's involvement, as Casseri steadily built a strong relationship with Tianjin No. 2 high school in China's fourth-largest city. According to institute Director Yu Yuan, the partnership will help with resources that the district otherwise could not dream of providing.
"Lew-Port already had a Chinese classroom," Yu said. "We'll be providing more resources. The school will get lots of textbooks, computer equipment. It's a great tool, a great resource for students to learn Chinese."
Lew-Port's connection with Tianjin No. 2 is a special one in the eyes of UB's institute. Typically, Hanban chooses to mix schools in its exchange, pulling teachers from different areas of the country to do overseas ventures. But because of the established roots between the two schools, Casseri said Tianjin No. 2 will continue being partners with his building.
The partnership was evident Saturday, as students from the Chinese high school were in attendance for the ceremony, which included Gold Summit's dragon dancers, a kung fu exhibition and music by American and Chinese performers. Even the Tianjin students got involved, singing a Chinese song for the audience which ended up clapping along.
In the end, everyone involved is proud of what the district has accomplished.
"It's an innovative, exciting program," Lew-port School Board President Michael Gentile said. "It's been a while in the making. Parts of it we weren't quite sure of or what it meant, but we're proud of what it's accomplished."Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.