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Local students selected to study in Cambodia

By Lailani Upham

MISSOULA — Four Lake County Native high school students have been selected by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana to partake in all-expense paid trip to Cambodia to study cultural and environmental issues in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Twenty students across Montana have been chosen from a pool of 140 applications.

The group will depart on June 10 and return July 13. The tour is supported by the U.S. Department of State to implement the American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP) in Cambodia. The program focuses on environmental issues and climate change, according to the Mansfield Center.

The Lake County students are: Arlee High School students, Louis Bunce, 17; Nicole Range, 17; and Courtney Perry, 17; and St. Ignatius student Camaleigh Old Coyote, 16.

The $175,000 U.S. Department of State grant awarded to the Mansfield Center is intended to send 20 students and two teachers who are looking to experience another culture and learn about environmental issues facing both Cambodia and Montana, according to Kelsey Stamm, Mansfield Center project manager.

The area of study will compare and contrast the many environmental issues affecting both regions in areas of water, forestry, and ecotourism, says Stamm.

“This is a highly competitive program that was pursued by organizations across the U.S.,” said Deena Mansour, Mansfield Center associate director. “That the Department of State is providing this rare opportunity exclusively for Montana reflects the quality of our educators and the students coming out of Montana.”

According to Stamma, a highlight of the program will be a visit to the World Heritage site of the Angkor Archaeological Park, which contains the majestic remains of the capitals of Khmer Empire, which is dated from the ninth to 15th centuries.

Cambodia is also known for one of the fastest growing tourism spots in the world.

“This is an experience of a lifetime, and we are excited to be able to offer this program to Montana educators and students,” Stamm stated.

Arlee High School student Louis Bunce selected for AYLP to travel to Cambodia this summer. (Courtesy photo) Arlee High School student Louis Bunce selected for AYLP to travel to Cambodia this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Bunce has studied not only his own language, Salish, but has studied, Latin, Greek, Syrian Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Italian and Esperanto.

“It turns out Cambodians and Salish have many things in common that I didn’t realize before. I would like to share my Native American culture’s art, stories, language, and perhaps skills. I think it would be interesting to compare and learn from each other. It’s my goal to learn about the world, be a part of new experiences and live life to whatever amazing extent I can live. I don’t know what kind of life changing experience awaits, but I know, I’m ready to be a part of what ever adventure awaits in the near future,” Bunce said.

His father, John says Louis’ main focus is the sciences and wants to pursue molecular biology. “He is like a modern day renaissance man. He likes to study every thing just for the knowledge of it. He loves to learn a lot of language and culture and believes to learn a culture you have to learn the language. He likes to see how language is connected and see how it is similar in different ways.”

Bunce says his son interest in is in philosophy of other people.

Bunce’s mother, Crystal, calls her son a “humanitarian.” She says her son’s dream is to research people in other countries and study the diseases to find a cure. “The first step in being able to do that is make contacts. He wants to help people in third world countries that don’t have access to healthcare,” she said.

“I look forward to seeing what he’ll do once he gets to college. He’s also done tons of community service for the Catholic Church and enjoys being part of the church’s youth group in Arlee.” Crystal stated.

Student’s selection was centered on GPA, community service and maturity.

Arlee High School student Nicole Rang selected for AYLP to travel to Cambodia this summer. (Courtesy photo) Arlee High School student Nicole Rang selected for AYLP to travel to Cambodia this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Nicole Rang, an Arlee sophomore plans on studying in the medical field. Rang is known as a leader in her school and is top of her class academically, according to Mansour. Rang has participated in the People to People Ambassador program and traveled to Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria for 19 days in 2010. During her travels she picked up phrases in the languages of the countries.

Rang stated, “I have always been interested in learning more about other cultures, and I believe that this program will provide a great opportunity for me to learn about the Cambodian culture and meet new people. I will be able to experience the culture instead of just learning about it, which is the most important to me. I feel that it is important for me to learn and experience several different cultures to give me a broad perspective in life.”

Arlee High School student Courtney Perry selected for AYLP to travel this summer to Cambodia. (Courtesy photo) Arlee High School student Courtney Perry selected for AYLP to travel this summer to Cambodia. (Courtesy photo)

Courtney Perry, an Arlee junior has a love of powwows, beading, berry-picking and cooking. Her involvement in the community includes education and survival of cultural traditions. She volunteers with kids at Nkwusm Salish Institute and speaks the language. This will be her first trip out of the country and says she looks forward to sharing her culture with not only the Cambodians but her fellow Montanans on the trip as well.

“(This will) really open my eyes on how other communities and cultures are like and how grateful I should be that I live in a good nation and community,” Perry stated.

“Native Americans are a part of American culture, we have been here for decades and I think that Cambodian people would love to learn about us. So not only would it be a cultural experience for me but for them too,” Perry added.

St. Ignatius High School student Camaleigh Old Coyote selected for AYLP to travel this summer to Cambodia. (Courtesy photo) St. Ignatius High School student Camaleigh Old Coyote selected for AYLP to travel this summer to Cambodia. (Courtesy photo)

Camaleigh Old Coyote, St. Ignatius sophomore, Crow, is an athlete in volleyball, softball and cheerleading. She has participated in Montana’s Model United Nations, and says the experience has sparked an interest in pursuing international relations for her career. She has studied Spanish and Salish.

“Living on one of seven reservations in Montana, opportunities for many Native American teenagers are few and too far apart. When this opportunity presented itself to expand my outlook, I couldn’t have been more positive that this trip was something I was meant to do.” Old Coyote stated.

“Researching Cambodians and hearing their stories, I kept thinking how Cambodians and Native Americans are not too different. I know I could create a relationship and connections with Cambodian people that could possibly last a lifetime,” she added.

AYLP is intended to enhance mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries and prepare youth leaders to become responsible citizens and spur and interest in studying foreign cultures, and develop a band of Americans with cultural understanding who are able to advance international dialogue and compete effectively in a global economy, according to Stamm.

The Cambodia AYLP is one of seven programs.

The Mansfield Center promotes better understanding of Asia and the relations of the U.S. with Asia, fostered from the ethics and public affairs of the late U.S. Senator Mike Mansfield and his wife Maureen.

“This program complements the suite of activities offered by the Mansfield Center to communities across our state,” Mansour said. “We’re pleased that the State Department has supported us in our efforts to offer exchange opportunities to professionals, University students, and now to high school students.”

More information can be found on the Mansfield Center’s website at http://www.umt.edu/mansfield or by calling Stamm at 406-243-2838.

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