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Reaching Out for Kids and Community

Having been involved since her first year on campus with Colby Cares About Kids, which pairs students at the college with young people in local schools, Pinyi (Irene) Zhang (China, UWC Atlantic, Colby College ’22) grabbed at a chance to be a summer program assistant for Colby STARTALK. That’s a summer day camp, funded by a National Security Agency grant, in which professors in the Chinese Department use art to teach Chinese language and culture to local elementary-school children.

“The approach that we took was immersion-type language learning. The teachers only used Chinese with the students,” Irene explains. “Every day we would lead them to do some form of traditional Chinese art, like making stamps, puppet theater, and landscape drawing using Chinese paintbrushes. I developed pretty strong relationships with the students, which was exciting. I hope to teach in the future, so it was good practice for me.”

Through Colby Cares About Kids, she spends a couple of hours each week with a fourth-grade girl in a Waterville school.

“It’s mostly about spending time, talking with them and telling them there’s a lot of possibilities in life.”

A double major in anthropology and education with a minor in East Asian studies, Irene is a regular host for Colby’s International Coffee Hour, and she’s a community advisor. “That’s like an RA, but with a lot more responsibilities for building community,” she says. “I wanted to work with the international population at Colby, and bring my own understanding of community to the college.