Miami Palmetto High School senior Yun-Jui (Michelle) Wu spent four weeks in Taiwan teaching students in a rural area how to speak English.
“I go back every summer to visit my grandparents and relatives,” she says. “This year I was there longer than usual.”
She participated in a program called AID, which stands for Assisting Individuals with Disadvantages. AID finds English-speaking students to go back to Taiwan to teach English in the rural areas of the country.
“They assign you to different areas of the country,” she says. “I was put in the southern rural area. I had to live in the kindergarten classrooms of the school.”
She was one of eight volunteer teachers teaching four classes. They taught Monday-Friday from 8:50 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“After we taught we had to do lesson plans and make lesson materials,” she says.
Even though it was hard work, she loved the experience.
“It was really fun,” she says. “We learned a lot because the culture is different.”
The students had a basic level of English, learning topics such as family, supermarket, and clothing. The students are also taught English throughout the school year.
Although most of the volunteer teachers understood Mandarin, the school asked them to keep this a secret so that the students were forced to use English in the classrooms.
Last summer, Wu volunteered at a preschool, working with two- to three-year-old toddlers. She loves working with younger kids.
She also spent time interning at TECO – the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Coral Gables where she assisted in the arrangements for the arrival of the Taiwanese Beep Baseball Team and provided translations of numerous instructional consular service documents.
At Palmetto, Wu has been a part of the Capstone club since freshman year, where she holds the secretary position.
“We try to promote Capstone,” she says. “It’s relatively new and not a lot of people know about the club. We try to create a family feeling for the people in the Capstone program.”
Capstone Club members participate in drives, some suggested by the leadership and some at the suggestion of members.
“If we’re not doing a community service project, we try to help around the school,” she says. “Last year we painted a mural in the school.”
Wu is also a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She participated in all the regional and state competitions for Mu Alpha Theta last year and intends to attend competitions this year as well.
“This year I’m part of Panther-to-Panther,” she says. “It was a community service project started by a Palmetto student a few years ago.”
When the student graduated, the program kind of died and a current student has worked to bring it back to life. The Palmetto upperclassmen serve as the mentors, helping out the underclassmen who have signed up for this program.
“It’s to help them feel more comfortable in a new setting,” she says.
The mentor can tutor the underclassmen, or give them advice, depending on what’s needed.
This year, Wu serves as co-president of Tutoring for Tomorrow, the tutoring service started by and run by Palmetto students. The tutors are paid but donate back half, or all, of their fee. That money is then used to donate to charity, to Palmetto and some of the school clubs. Wu mainly tutors in math.
Wu is interested in majoring in finance or economics in college. Her college list includes the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Florida.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld