By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – On May 10, 15 international journalists from the Middle East and North Africa visited with students at Algonquin Regional High School through the International Visitor Leadership Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
“We are lucky, thanks to the work of Cathy Griffin, our applied arts teacher, who has a connection with the News Literacy Project…. They reached out to her earlier this school year and we had a wave of journalists come in October. As a result of that being a successful experience, they reached out to her again and said that they have the second group of journalists coming from Northern Africa and the Middle East and wondered if they could come here,” Kimberly Honey, school librarian explained. “We are the only school that they are visiting…this is their only glimpse at American schools.”
Roughly 130 students gathered in the school library to take part in a robust panel discussion where questions were exchanged, through interpreters, between the students and journalists.
One of the journalists asked why they should love America and student David Soboyejo replied that America is a good place for people of various cultures to come together and to learn more about each other.
Several questions involved the role that social media plays in obtaining news, the various platforms that are available, discerning reliable and accurate news and filtering out fake news.
A question relative to dealing with censorship in media was asked. The journalist from Tunisia responded that every country is different with regard to freedoms and that the primary difference between the United States and Tunisia are their institutions.
Journalist Tawasif Hameed M. Alanazi from Saudi Arabia said she was impressed with the coexistence between people of differing ethnicities, religions and people coming from everywhere. It is different from what she had read and what she has seen in reality.
Prior to their visit, Honey had reached out to the school English language instructors to see if they had any students who speak Arabic. Jena Khreim and Nathalie Botros, both seniors, were excited to be able to use their Arabic.
“I am really interested to see how they do their work, if it differs internationally versus in America,” Khreim remarked. “I think it is really important to keep the culture alive, not just in the home or at the mosque … but also in predominantly American places.”
“I think it’s really good if we come together and talk more and understand each other more so we are on the same level,” added Nathalie Botros.
“I just feel like it’s good to have this interaction happen with us …so they know the difference between America and Middle Eastern countries,” her brother Daniel Botros noted.