Last week, 16 students from China arrived in Missouri to participate in the department's American Legion Boys State program as part of an international exchange initiative that sends Chinese youth to the U.S. to learn about democracy and American government.
The group is the first class of the US-China Youth Leadership Exchange program, which will send a delegation of Chinese students to the University of Central Missouri each summer to participate in the state's Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State programs. The 16 male participants arrived June 13 and are currently enrolled in Boys State; 21 female participants will arrive June 22 to participate in Girls State, which runs from June 23-29.
The international exchange program is being led by the MidWest US-China Association  - an organization that promotes governmental, economic, educational and cultural opportunities between the central region of the United States and the People's Republic of China.
"This unprecedented cultural exchange, made possible through the Missouri Boys State and Missouri Girls State programs, serves as a vivid reminder that the youth of today are truly global citizens," said Bob Holden, former Missouri Governor and chairman of the MidWest US-China Association. Holden is also an alumnus of Missouri Boys State.
Before heading to Central Missouri's campus in Warrensburg, Mo., the Chinese students get the opportunity to make sightseeing stops in St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City and Jefferson City. The tour serves as a primer to the week-long leadership program that will allow them to commingle with American students and learn the intricacies of Western-style government.
"Missouri Boys State is proud and excited to be the conduit for such a fascinating sharing of ideas and world perspective," said Mike Plunkett, Missouri Boys State director. "One of our core beliefs is that the individual is the one with the power to change the world. Imagine what great things could come from any one of the individuals who take part in this timely meeting of youthful minds."
The inaugural US-China Youth Leadership Exchange is the result of a strategic partnership between the Beijing Language and Culture University and the Missouri Boys State and Missouri Girls State programs under the direction of the MidWest US-China Association. The exchange program welcomes among its sponsors the University of Central Missouri, Emerson, American Airlines and many Missouri businesses and alumni of the state's Boys and Girls State programs.