Zumbathon to raise funds for Beacon Hill students’ visit to China pen pals

By Evangeline Cafe
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Zumba enthusiasts hope the community will join them on April 5 at Jefferson Community Center for a fundraiser benefitting the BHIS Mandarin Immersion Program’s 2015 trip to China. (Pam Pilch Photography)

Victoria Lum-Nye is a proud alumna of Beacon Hill Elementary School, which is now Beacon Hill International School (BHIS). She recently attended the 50-year reunion of her sixth-grade class, where she was able to reminisce and reconnect with old friends.

“It was such a great reunion. We had two-thirds of our class show up, and we just picked up where we left off. It was amazing,” she said.

Shortly after the reunion, Lum-Nye found out that fifth-graders at BHIS are planning to travel to China this spring, as a culmination of their studies in the school’s Mandarin Immersion Program. She became concerned when she learned that financial barriers threatened to keep the trip from becoming a reality. BHIS is a Title I school with an overall poverty rate of 60 percent. Nearly half of the Mandarin program fifth-graders come from families that fall within the federal poverty level.

“When did Beacon Hill get so poor?” she first thought, before realizing that it’s not that they’re so poor. “It’s that living has become so expensive,” said Lum-Nye.

Parents, teachers, and students have managed to raise funds to help this year’s fifth-graders make the inaugural trip to China to visit a school in Chongqing and spend time with pen pals with whom they have been exchanging letters for several years. The fifth-graders have been looking forward to it since they began the Mandarin program in kindergarten.

Organizers hope to make the China trip an annual tradition for each fifth-grade class. Because of financial barriers that families continue to face, next year’s students may not be so lucky.

Lum-Nye, a licensed Zumba instructor, immediately jumped in to help. She is organizing a Zumbathon to raise money ahead of the Mandarin Immersion Program’s 2015 China trip. Her goal is to raise $2,500 to provide a scholarship for at least one student to make the trip next year.

“When I heard they needed money, my immediate thought was, ‘Let’s do something fun. I don’t have kids, I’m retired, I’ve fundraised all my life, and I’ve always believed in participating in the community,” she said.

Zumba is a fitness program that combines Latin and international music dance moves. It has increased in popularity around the globe in recent years.

“I love Zumba, it’s just so much fun,” said Lum-Nye. “You get people together, and it doesn’t seem like a workout. It’s like a dance party.”

The Zumbathon will take place on Saturday, April 5, from 10 a.m. until noon at Jefferson Community Center in Seattle. Four teams of instructors will donate their time and effort as they lead two hours of Zumba exercises. Lum-Nye encourages anybody who enjoys Zumba, is curious about it, or simply wants to help students in need, to attend.

“People can expect to have fun. They’ll just want to move and enjoy the music.”

Local merchants have offered cash donations to help cover the event expenses and in-kind gifts for raffle prizes and goodie bags.

Lum-Nye believes it is important for people, young and old, to experience life in another country. After studying abroad in college, she lived and worked in Hong Kong for several years. Although she came to the country speaking only English, she had achieved conversational fluency in Cantonese by the end of her stay. Lum-Nye wants the Mandarin program students to have the same cross-cultural enrichment.

“The trip is a way to facilitate the curriculum, and to take it out of the textbooks and travel abroad,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the students to create a sense of community and to work together. If you don’t build a sense of community now, you wouldn’t know how to build it as an adult,” she said.

Lum-Nye hopes that members of the community will break a sweat for students who have spent years working it out inside the classroom.

“We want it to really be an event, not just a fundraiser. It’ll be one fun party. We hope this is the first of several.” (end)

Zumbathon participants may register at brownpapertickets.com ($20 donation) or pay cash at the door ($25 donation). Donations to the BHIS 2015 China trip fund may also be made at: https://www374.safesecureweb.com/alliance4edo/donate/donate-individual-school.asp?school=20504+BHIS+Class+of+2015.

Evangeline Cafe can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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