Original printed- San Gabriel Valley Tribune (March 6 1996)
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Colorful Flags tries to Break the Ice

RENFORD REESE, right, and third grader Frank Ortega, second from left, striking fighting poses Thursday during Colorful Flags program at Cedargrove Elementary School in Covina

Students shown how short phrases in other languages bridge gap
By Diane Brown
Staff Writer
Covina - Can we all get along?

     The problem with building positive ethnic relationships is that people don't break the ice, says Californian.
     Polytechnic University at Pomona professor Renford Reese.
     He spent Thursday morning helping students at Cedargrove Elementary School practice ice-breakers during two 45 minute presentations of his language-based Colorful Flags program.
     Words spoken in a person's native or first language reduce mistrust and stimulate cultural curiosity, Reese says.
     As children held international flags as props, the Colorful Flags director drilled them over phrases such as "What's your name," "Please," and '"Thank you," in the five most spoken non-English languages at the school Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tagalog.
     Reese asked a third-grader to teach her school mates how to say "Hello.

How are you" in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines and one of two languages spoken in her home.
     "Kamusta Ka Na" said student Alexandra Sam speaking the language at her school for her first time.
     "It was exciting," Sam, 8, said of the experience. "It made me feel better to know that other people can speak my language and I won't be ashamed of my culture."
     That's the kind of positive experiences that are important in the development of better race relations, Reese said.
    "Kids from different ethnic backgrounds are empowered by this," the professor said.
     In turn, their listeners became more curious and hopefully will venture out to learn additional foreign phrases, Reese said.
     The Cal Poly Pomona political science professor grew up in an English-speaking Caucasian/African-American community near Atlanta, but now speaks conversational phrases in 15 languages, he said.
     Throughout Thursday's lively presentations, Reese, students and teachers used animated body and hand movements that reflected inflections of their voices.

TEACHER Helen Oh, left, can win $1 if she can correctly pronounce "please" in Tagalog.

"If was pretty cool," said Marty Critchfield, 10. At the invitation of a Cal Poly Pomona administrator, Reese said he relocated the program's headquarters from the University of Southern California to Cal Poly Pomona last summer.
     Cedargrove is one of five East San Gabriel Valley schools using the program's audio tapes and video tapes, and phonetic cards, available in 25 languages, officials said.
     Twenty-four teachers at the Covina school more than half the staff, has used the five month program since January, Assistant Principal Carole Lupica said. PTA funding has paid for the school's portion of program expenses, about $5 per classroom, she said.
"If you can make a connection with someone from a different culture, you build respect," said Cedargrove teacher Linda Lemon, adding her third grade students love the program.
     Reese's program concepts grew out of the death of Latasha Harlins, an African-American youth shot to death in 1991 by a Korean merchant dispute over a bottle of juice.
     "I know it's more complex than this, but what if (Harlins) had said 'An Yong Ha Sae Yo' when she walked into that store?" Reese said.
     As simple as it sounds, '*Hello. How are you doing?" spoken in a person's native language can diffuse racial mistrust, according to the political science instructor.

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