Category Archives: Student success

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From Charlotte to Cuba: A trip of Thanksgiving



From November 20-28, Andy Gong, a senior at Charlotte Country Day School, Sharon Qian, a sophomore at Charlotte Country Day School, and 20 of their peers traveled to Cuba on a journey of service and cultural exchange.

The student-initiated trip took place during the students’ Thanksgiving break, and gave students the chance to experience authentic Cuban life while giving back to the community.

Andy served on the team of students who planned the trip, deciding where to visit and which activities to attend. He was inspired to make the trip happen, and worked to draft student applications and vetted applicants.

So, “why Cuba,” you may ask?

“(Cuba) is so close, but so far,” Gong said.

“Traveling to Cuba feels like traveling back in time – old fashion cars; no 4G network or PlayStation; primarily an agriculture society; go to bed with the lamp and get up with the lark— With the opening of Cuba as a reformation and the normalization of the U.S. – Cuban relationship, we may never be able to see what Cuba is like today if (big western businesses) like Starbucks and Papa John’s get into the Cuban market. We wanted to spot the authentic Cuba before it becomes an ordinary Caribbean resort country.”

DSC_4707During the trip, the students visited an organic garden and a textbook printing shop, where they were able to act in service, interact and help out members of the local community.

When they weren’t giving back to the community, they were able to visit a local high school, discuss economics with a Cuban professor, take dance lessons and play a baseball game with the locals. They were even able to spend a little bit of time on the beach and enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner with Cuban ingredients in Trinidad.

“We engaged in many cultural activities—visiting medical clinics, art galleries, and even a club! By doing so, we got to talk to the locals about their lifestyles and learned the authentic Cuban culture and customs and its own people and their passion and dreams,” Gong said.

“When we had the conversation with Cuban high school students – regardless of nationalities and differences, our passions on music (and) sports, (and our) eagerness to learn about a different culture instantly brought us close together to have peer-to-peer engagement.”

Dan Brown, homestay regional manager, served as the New Oasis student coordinator for the Charlotte area last year, and worked closely with Andy and Sharon.

“Andy is an exceptionally driven student who forges his own path.  He takes every opportunity that comes his way and creates his own if they don’t,” Brown said.

“He has the kind of positive, humorous attitude that builds a near instant rapport.  I look forward to reading about Andy in a few years, as he begins to find his place in the world.”

Brown said Sharon is also an academically-focused student.DSC_4658

“Sharon is an eager student who takes her work seriously.  Her academic power is wonderfully at odds with her humble, mild manner.  She is truly making the most of this study experience and has a promising academic career ahead of her at Charlotte Country Day.”

A complete recap of the story, including photos and updates, can be found at

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New Oasis students shine at CNU Regional High School Mathematics Contest

Exterior School Shot

Some students can’t wait for the weekend, where they will get a break from the pressures of school, but 13 students at Cape Henry Collegiate School spent their Saturday competing in the Christopher Newport University Regional High School Mathematics Contest on Nov. 14.

Of all the students participating in the contest, primarily from public schools in the region, New Oasis students at Cape Henry took home a number of honors.

Grace Li was the highest scoring 11th grader, Cape Henry’s highest scorer and the third-highest scorer of all students who participated.

Cape Henry Collegiate had seven students place in the overall top-ten: Grace Li, Andy Hong, Daisy Zhang, Justin Dubik, James Tyler, and another who preferred not to be named.

Hong, Zhang, Li are are New Oasis students. James Tyler, a Cape Henry student, was the highest-scoring ninth-grade student.

Not only are these students bright and enthusiastic, they are considerate and respectful.  Tyler Faubert, who drove the students over and back, said each student shook hands with him and thanked him as they left the bus!

All participants in the competition were:  Tom Chen, Justin Dubik, Andy Hong, Grace Li, Nicole Rychagov, James Tyler, Daisy Yang, Daisy Zhang, Harry Zhang, Wenxi Zhang, and Frank Zhu.

Congratulations to all Cape Henry students for a successful weekend!

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Featured Student: Yula Zixin Ye, Rising Senior, Peninsula Catholic High School

image1 (1)Yula Ye arrived in the United States in 2013 as a sophomore exchange student in a new school, in a new country. But when she first arrived at Peninsula Catholic High School in Newport News, Virginia, she quickly realized she felt right at home.

Several short years later, Yula is heading into her final year as a Peninsula Catholic student. During her time at the school, she has achieved success in school, and at home.

“Peninsula Catholic is a small school with close relationships,” Ye said. “We all know each other well, and we make a lot of friends.”

At school, Yula earned Honors in Art 3, Achievement in Art 2, Achievement in Honors English 11, and was selected to the Mu Alpha Theta National High School and Two-Year College Mathematics Honor Society.

An accomplished artist, Yula hopes to be an interior designer after college. She has been heavily involved with her school’s Art Club for all three of her years in the school, so much so, that she will be taking over as president next year. In the Art Club, Yula and her fellow students participate in contests, where they have received numerous awards.

In addition to her school’s Art Club, Yula applied for and will attend Virginia Commonwealth University’s Summer Art Program in the summer of 2015, a program which promotes cross-disciplinary approaches to creative activity; and imparts practical knowledge and skills to prepare performing artists for college auditions and visual artists for the creation of their application portfolios. [VCU Arts]

Since art is such a big part of Yula’s life, she found a way to give back to her host family using her artistic talent. The night before Mother’s Day in 2015, Yula a waited anxiously for her host mom to go to sleep. Once her mother was sleeping, she was up. She had a long night ahead of her. IMG_1006

While the host mom slept, Yula and Nancy worked through the night to decorate the host family’s kitchen with balloons and artwork with Mother’s Day messages on them. The mother awoke to quite a surprise, declaring how much she loved it!

Yula’s interest in art can be accredited largely in part to her art teacher, Ms. Kovalcik, who has helped her throughout her time at the high school. In 2016, Yula will serve as her teaching assistant.

Having made connections with many other teachers, Yula said her Honors English 11 teacher, Ms. O’Brien is also always willing to help her, is very friendly and has a wonderful personality.

Entering her senior year, Yula will be working with Lizzie Lixin Liu, her academic adviser at New Oasis, to prepare for the TOEFL and SAT tests.

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