The DC Kids

JEFFREY WOOD

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Jeffrey Wood lives with his mother and twin brother in DC. The trip to China will be the first time Jeffrey has been away from home and the prospect of separation causes a great deal of anxiety for his mother, although she is hopeful that he can make some friends during the trip.

Academically gifted and conscientious, Jeffrey is a model student at Roosevelt High School and is selected to meet President Obama at a cookout at the White House, a moment he will never forget.

Being around so many people on the trip to China and experiencing different environments prove to be big challenges for Jeffrey.

However, an insight into his relations with other people helps Jeffrey map a new approach to life.

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JUANIQUE MCNEILL

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Juanique’s family background is a complicated one. She has several brothers and sisters as well as an extended family of step and half-siblings. Her father Tony lives in North Carolina, while Juanique lives in DC with one brother and her mother.

Juanique had a troubled time during her early high school years and was expelled from a specialist high school for fighting in class. But her determination not to be defined by her circumstances, coupled with an eye-opening first trip to China, helped her get back on track.

Juanique struggles with learning Mandarin during this second trip to China and is not sure whether to persevere with her studies.

But an experience volunteering at a Beijing migrant school gives her a new perspective on her education and opens a whole new range of possibilities.

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PETER MAMBWE

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We first meet Peter as he graduates from high school. Peter is excited to be returning to China for a second summer and looking forward to starting at Penn State in the Fall.

Peter was born and grew up in Zambia in Southern Africa. Although his father battled with alcoholism and eventually died of tuberculosis, Peter grew up supported by a loving extended family in his Zambian home village.

At age 14, he moved to DC to live with his mother and stepfather where he embraced the American way of life and quickly became a popular student at Wilson High School. As his teacher Maggie Ma says “If he didn’t tell you, you would never imagine he’s not a local DC kid”.

On this second trip to China, Peter takes on a mentor role for many of the other students. His facility with Chinese and his natural leadership qualities mean the other students look up to him for advice and support.

However, some aspects of Chinese life remind Peter of his Zambian roots and trigger some doubts about his future in the US.

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ROYELLE JONES

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Royelle is finishing her junior year of high school as she prepares to leave home for the very first time to go to China.

Although nervous about flying and what the food may be like in China, Royelle’s spirit of adventure helps her approach her the trip with enthusiasm.

Royelle’s large family live in a two-bedroom apartment in Southeast DC. Rather than dwelling on their difficulties, her family approaches life with a positive up-beat attitude and a sense of fun.

On the trip to China, Royelle makes friends easily and quickly adapts to dorm life. Experiencing some less-affluent aspects of life in China leads Royelle to reflect that, even coming from a family struggling to make ends meet, “the US is such a rich wealthy country, it is easy to take things for granted.”

After seeing how seriously the Chinese take their education, Royelle returns to the US for her senior year of high school.

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