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European, Central American teens visit Sparkman journalism students

Journalism students at Sparkman High School welcomed teenagers from Great Britain, France and Belize visiting on the "I Have a Dream" tour. (CONTRIBUTED)
Journalism students at Sparkman High School welcomed teenagers from Great Britain, France and Belize visiting on the “I Have a Dream” tour. (CONTRIBUTED)

HARVEST – Thirteen students from Europe and Central America visited Sparkman High School journalism students to discuss current events and the “The Crimson Crier” newspaper.

Eleven students traveled from Great Britain (three from London) and one each from France and Belize with Global Connections’ “I Have a Dream” tour, Erin Coggins said. Coggins advises newspaper and yearbook staffs and teaches honors history and broadcasting.

This summer, the foreign students contacted Coggins about meeting with Sparkman’s newspaper staff to discuss production of a scholastic newspaper in the United States. “I thought it would be a great learning experience for my students,” Coggins said.

While in Madison County, they stayed in University of Alabama in Huntsville dormitories.

The group visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, met with al.com reporters and Sen. Robert Adherholt (R-AL) and was interviewed on Alabama Public Television.

Over lively conversation, the students lunched on pizza, desserts and “lots of soda,” Coggins said. The visitors asked about Alabama life, football games, social media and politics. “One group discussed how racism still exists in this country, in relation to the Ferguson, Mo. riots.”

One student asked Aderholt if Alabama needed growth in handling race relations, women’s rights and gay rights. “The response from the senator was, ‘No. We are just where we need to be. The student from Britain was astounded,” Coggins said.

“She was disappointed that our (political) leaders weren’t as forward as she thought they (should) be. My kids agreed. This sparked a great conversation on current events and the two governments,” she said.

“It wasn’t petty conversation. These kids hit the issues hard,” Coggins said.

Coggins was pleased with hugs between students. Although only together one hour, the students connected and frantically exchanged Twitter and Facebook information.

This “cross-cultural exchange” jived with Sparkman journalism’s goals for open-mindedness and exposure to different cultures and ideas. “Everyone has differences, but we’re still all the same,” Coggins said.

The touring students took editions of “The Crimson Crier” to read on their return flight and promised to critique the publication.

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