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Cape Verdean president visits Burke High School, students reflect on their service trip to the island nation

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 28, 2012 11:38 AM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

By Patrick D. Rosso, Town Correspondent

With thunderous applause, Boston students welcomed Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca to Dorchester’s Burke High School Friday morning.

The visit by the African dignitary was a special occasion for the youth, especially the Burke’s 142 students who hail from the island nation.

“Take advantage of the opportunities you have here to learn and become great citizens,” Fonseca said to the students, speaking through a translator. “I ask you to behave and learn.”

Fonseca touched on many topics during his brief speech to students, reminding them to work hard, take care of one another and always strive to be the best.

Students from the Burke, the Manson Elementary, Madison Park High School and Dudley Square Neighborhood Charter School attended Friday’s event, beaming at the president, taking pictures with their cell phones and cheering loudly after he finished his speech.

School officials estimate there are 1,750 students in Boston Public Schools who hail from Cape Verde, an island located on the western side of the African continent.

“One thing we want to do is make sure we celebrate our students' cultures,” said Bethany Wood, director of Global Education for BPS. “It’s important to prepare the students for the world they will enter, which will be full of different cultures.”

To further encourage students to embrace all cultures and take the best from each, students have been taking part in teacher led service trips.

Last year teachers took students from a number of BPS’ high schools on 25 international trips.

“It’s a way to have them build a community together and bring it back to the school,” said Maria Depina, an English teacher at the Burke, who took students to her home country of Cape Verde in April. “We want to create a bridge for our students, when you bring them to a particular country it gives them a different experience.”

Although the school system is proud to boast the international destinations, it’s the students who took the most from the program.

“It was an amazing experience. It’s something you won’t see every day,” said Yissa Guerreno, a 17 year-old Burke student who visited Cape Verde with Depina in April. “Visiting Cape Verde was life changing.”

Students toured the nation of 523,000, visiting historical sites, meeting locals and working with Cape Verde students.

“I saw things I don’t think I would have ever seen,” said Guerreno. “I felt like I was doing good. It was honestly one of the best things that can happen to a student.”

Many of the 12 students who took part in April’s trip were not from Cape Verde, but some were, giving them the opportunity to show off their country of origin to their friends.

“I was pretty much the translator,” laughed Manuel Pires, a 19 year-old Burke student. “It was three-years since I’d been home so it was really nice. We got to show them our culture and what we have in common.”

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