Patrick Taylor Academy Welcomes 23 Chinese Exchange Students

When Jefferson Parish Public School System Chief Academic Officer Debra Cooper reached out to Jamie Zapico about hosting Chinese exchange students at her school, it didn’t take long for the Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy principal to respond with an “Absolutely!”

“We are a very diverse campus,” said Zapico. “Our students being able to interact with students from China, to learn their traditions and their culture, was just an incredible opportunity.”

Zapico and her Patrick F. Taylor family greeted the 23 exchange students and their teachers during a welcome ceremony at the school on February 1. The festive event, which was also attended by JPPSS leadership and Gretna Mayor Belinda C. Constant, kicked-off a week of activities for the students at Patrick Taylor Academy and around the Greater New Orleans area.

Monday’s welcome ceremony included performances by the Patrick Taylor Academy band and cheerleaders, speeches by students and staff members, and the presentation of some special gifts. Patrick Taylor Academy students presented each of the exchange students with a school lanyard, a school ID, and multiple “spirit monkeys.” Those last items are a school tradition used to honor students for an academic achievement or for following one of the school’s Tiger ideals.

“We really wanted to make them feel at home,” said Zapico.

Throughout the week, the exchange students attended classes with their host families and visited areas around the region. One of their stops included a Mardi Gras parade, something they got a small taste of Monday with their gifts of beads and king cake.

Zapico said she was proud of the true interest her students took in welcoming their guests, learning more about their traditions, and sharing their own culture with their new friends.

“Our Patrick Taylor students focus on collaboration,” said Zapico. “They’ve been able to work with some of the students while they’re here. They’ve been able to show off their strong work ethic and just how dynamic all around they are as students and as young people.”