High Falls Student to Visit China
BY JOHN CHAPPELL
Morgan Seawell, of High Falls, is heading to China this week.
A student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Seawell is one of the first 10 recipients of Carolina China Council's new Bridge Scholarship. It's an educational exchange program between North Carolina and her sister state, Hunan Province.
Last week, Seawell and her parents were in Cary for a banquet welcoming one of Hunan Province's vice governors, Chen Zhaoxiong, who was in Raleigh with a high-level delegation exploring business opportunities between the two states.
"I am excited about it, very excited," Seawell said. "I am starting my junior year, double-majoring in biology and dietetics. I'll be there 16 days."
The Carolina China Center (CCC) worked with the Hunan Province Department of Education setting up these annual fellowships to promote education exchanges between North Carolina and China.
Each year, CCC will make 10 fellowship awards to North Carolina high school and college students and teachers that will cover their international travel, lodging, meal and local transportation expenses for their educational exchange activities with China.
Seawell leaves Thursday for her 16-day sojourn, one of eight students and two teachers taking part in a two-week summer camp program in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, hosted by Hunan Department of Education. Her scholarship covers food and accommodations during the camp, all camp activity expenses, domestic transportation within China and $1,100 for round-trip airfare.
The summer camp starts Wednesday and ends July 5. Seawell and others had to write short essays on their reasons for wanting to go, and will have to submit an End of Program Report after returning.
Seawell's reason for wanting to go came from a grave across the Deep River from her family home. It is the final resting place of Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch, a Flying Tiger fighter pilot shot down over China in World War II - buried and honored for 61 years by Guidong County residents who never knew his name.
After DNA identification his remains were brought back to High Falls and to the family plot in the Methodist Church cemetery. While there, Seawell will visit a mountain-side memorial to him in China.
"I am going to see the grave of Hoyle Upchurch and to learn the culture of China - which I really am excited about," Seawell said. "My family attends the church he and his family attended for many generations. We live right on the other side of the river."
This sister-state tie between North Carolina and Hunan resulted from Upchurch's service and sacrifice.Volunteers from the United States went to help China defend itself against Japan's invading forces even before Pearl Harbor.
That American Volunteer Group (AVG) later became the 23rd Fighter Group, which, until recently, was based at Fort Bragg. Upchurch lost his life helping others, and they hailed him as a hero.
'Honor You Showed'
During the banquet Wednesday night, state Sen. Harris Blake remembered the Flying Tiger from Moore County as he greeted Chen.
He introduced Dale Upchurch, Hoyle's nephew, who once again publicly expressed the family's gratitude for the way the people of Hunan had honored his uncle for so many years.
"Had it not been for the charity of your country, and the honor you showed U.S. servicemen this would not have come to pass," Upchurch said. "My uncle had just turned 21 in August 1944. Two weeks later, he was shot down and killed in Hunan Province. Governor, I want to thank you and your delegation for the honor and respect and safekeeping of my uncle for so many, many years."
Two Moore County guests at the banquet were members of another group heading to China next week. Pinehurst Mayor Ginsey Fallon and business owner Tom Stewart will take part in a sister city forum Monday through Wednesday in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.
Stewart and Fallon joined County Commissioner Larry Caddell and County Manager Carey McSwain at one of the round tables where dish after dish was served - Chinese style on rotating "lazy Susan" table centers.
These interchanges, and Blake's involvement itself, grew out of help the Upchurch family sought after the DNA identification.
The sister county agreement between Guidong and Moore followed its proposal in a letter Guidong's mayor sent to be read at reburial services when Upchurch's remains were returned to High Falls.
Agreements in Place
In addition to the county agreement, a sister-city agreement linked Zhaiqian Town in Guidong County with Robbins, the closest municipality to High Falls. Hunan and North Carolina made a sister-state pact.
Other agreements reached so far include:
n Establishment of a $30,000-a-year scholarship program, with funding from Hunan Provincial Govern-ment to provide Chinese language and cultural training for 10 to 20 North Carolina business executives, government officials and/or students at all levels (K-12, community college and University) in China.
n Establishment of a cooperative training program in North Carolina to train high school administrators and teachers from Hunan Province about the American culture and education system, with funding primarily coming from Hunan Province.
n Establishment of a Hunan trade office in the Triangle region of North Carolina to promote two-way trade and investment between North Carolina and Hunan Province.
n Announcement of the first Hunan-North Carolina tourism exchange program.
Since Yu's visit and his meeting with Gov. Bev Perdue, Hunan Provincial government initiated a tourism program to promote Hunan-North Carolina cooperation. The first tourism group heading to North Carolina is scheduled to arrive in the fall.
State Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco - who has himself made many trips to China - signed a broad cooperation agreement with Hunan Province during the visit of Hunan Vice Governor Laishan Yu in August 2009. At the Hunan Sister City Forum, invited participants from North Carolina will receive support from Hunan Province to cover local hotel, travel and meal expenses.
In September, Hunan will host the Zhijiang World Peace Festival in Zhijiang City, where the Flying Tigers air base was based during World War II. This event is cosponsored by the Carter Center, and former President Jimmy Carter has been invited to give a keynote speech at the festival.
Hunan picked North Carolina as one of its North American representative office locations. The Triangle Region of North Carolina is among four sites in North America selected by Hunan Province to host its representative offices. A formal announcement regarding the selection and the appointment of its representatives will be made during the Hunan Sister City Forum in Changsha.
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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