Brandon Delgado is learning about Vietnamese culture—and sharing some of his own experiences—via Zoom with students in Da Nang, Vietnam, thanks to the newly formed Global Talk Network at St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx.
Brandon is one of 12 St. Raymond students participating in the program with students in Da Nang.
“I wanted to learn more about Vietnam,” the 16-year-old junior told CNY. “I really didn’t know anything about Vietnam until I joined the program.
“My grandfather (Joseph Demaio) fought in the Vietnam War. He passed away so I wanted to learn more because he was never able to tell me about it. (My parents) are happy I joined because they wanted to see me do more things in school and interact with people as well.”
Jennifer Geideman, director of advancement at St. Raymond, and Matt Keenan, a St. Raymond alumnus living in Vietnam, established the program in which students from two different parts of the world communicate thanks to their Global Talk Network. The St. Raymond’s students spent 40 minutes on Wednesday mornings for six weeks talking with the students in Da Nang, which is 12 hours ahead of the time zone in New York. Students there continue to learn remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The children participating in Da Nang are students of government public schools during the day and also receive private schooling to supplement their daytime school.
Da Nang, one of the largest cities in Vietnam, is home to Da Nang Air Base, which was used by U.S. troops to assist the South Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. The country is a socialist republic with a one-party system led by the Communist Party of Vietnam.
“After some brainstorming we came up with the idea to help Vietnamese students practice conversational English with the St. Raymond's boys via Zoom call sessions.” said Keenan, a Vietnam War veteran. “While Vietnamese students do not have much opportunity to talk English, the opportunity with St. Raymond's students would give them confidence to break a barrier of shyness.
“For me personally, a Bronx boy at heart, it was with great pride, joy and fun to see the U.S. students from St. Raymond’s help the Vietnamese students practice speaking English.”
Ms. Geideman added, “It was truly a group effort to get it off the ground within a month’s time. The program was built to serve as a dual asset—for the Vietnam students to learn better and more functional conversational English skills while the St. Raymond students were granted an opportunity to learn how people their own age live halfway around the world.
“The students quickly learned that even though they have cultural differences, they do have more in common than they thought as they spoke about topics like entertainment, sports, music and video games.”
Gabriel Pallares, a senior, said he really didn’t know much about Vietnamese culture before joining the network and thathow this opportunity helped him learn about the culture and cope with being shy.
“I was nervous, and the first week I probably messed up a few words,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say, but then after a while I started to get to know them and I got more comfortable talking to them.”
Gabriel offered words of advice to the girls in St. Raymond Academy for Girls, which will join the network when it resumes in 2022.
“Don’t overthink it, just be yourself, talk to the person,” he said. “Whatever questions you have about the culture or anything you have in general, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t think just because they’re in a different country, you can’t interact with them. It’s definitely doable and you’ll probably enjoy it.”