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Passion in Education – From Chicago to China December 12, 2011

Posted by George Dong in China, Fulbright, Undergraduate.
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George Dong

George Dong

My name is George Dong. I received a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan, and I was the student commencement speaker for the Class of 2009.

Following graduation, I joined Teach For America and taught high school English in the inner city of Chicago. Thanks to the International Institute’s encouragement and support, I chose to pursue a Fulbright grant after fulfilling my Teach For America commitment because I wanted to continue to follow my passion in education.

In Chicago, I taught in an all-boys charter school that serves predominantly African-American boys from economically disadvantaged households. Eighty-five percent of students I taught there qualify for free or reduced lunch, 15 percent have special needs, and more than 85 percent enter high school reading below grade level.

In China, the educational inequality is even more alarming. While 70 percent of students from China’s major cities attend college, less than five percent of students from poor rural areas have access to higher education. My Fulbright grant is currently based in Yunnan Province. Yunnan is one of the most ethnically diverse provinces in China, yet is one of the poorest provinces in China. The average annual household income is only around $630 (4,000RMB).

George Dong with students in rural Yunnan, China.

George Dong with students in rural Yunnan, China.

More than 50 percent of students do not have the opportunity to attend high school. My Fulbright grant has allowed me to visit rural schools in Yunnan and to exchange insights gained from this experience with Chinese educators in order to contribute toward a broader understanding of how to close the achievement gap between urban and rural areas.

By doing so, I hope to foster mutual understanding and stronger ties between the United States and China through both collaborative projects and international exchange.

Watch George’s commencement speech!

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