PAA Mentorship Club Provides Opportunity

June 06, 2018 | Liesl Vistaunet

Maria Bibb, Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) international student program director, knows her students learn English best when they interact with American students in casual and fun ways. That’s why she established an international student mentorship club. This year, the club is building friendships between 35 international students and 50 American students.

American students don’t get academic credit for joining the club, but they do get to have fun with a purpose. Brianna Mansfield, a PAA senior, has been mentoring international students for seven years — her first three at Portland Adventist Elementary School. “I love getting to know international students,” she says. “I like making new friends and helping them out.”

Students meet regularly in Bibb’s classroom to play board games, eat lunch or help each other with homework. On special occasions, they explore popular destinations around Portland, visit museums, go hiking or bake cookies together in the cafeteria. A favorite for both American and international students is their monthly trip to the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) where they volunteer to care for cats and dogs.

“When I first came here, I had never touched a dog before,” says Tai Someya, a Japanese international student at PAA. “In Tokyo, no one has pets. Homes are small, and there is no room for animals in the city. Also, Japanese people consider animals dirty, and we like to have a clean home. But I don’t think it’s dirty. I think it’s good for children to have pets. I think it’s a good opportunity, so I am enjoying this very much.”

Opportunity is the purpose of the mentorship club. Volunteering at OHS provides unforgettable moments for international students while helping them build confidence in their English-speaking skills.

American students also find opportunity. “Not only do you get to know new people,” says Mansfield, “but you also get to learn so much more about their culture. If you want to travel abroad, this is the kind of thing to be involved in. It makes you want to travel. It’s an opportunity because of all the things you get to learn and the friends you get to make.”