Concert exchange links Chicago students to Afghans

April 26, 2012 2:25:59 PM PDT
A so-called classroom-to-classroom concert was held on the city's Southwest Side Thursday at Thomas Kelly High School where students performed for kids at a school in Afghanistan, and vice versa.

The exchange included music as well as questions about each other's education system, musical preparations and culture, including a question from an Afghan girl that noted the difficultly for young women to play music in her country.

"I feel like I had the advantage here and I took it for granted and I didn't know how lucky I am," said student Bianca Avina.

Thursday's program is part of a series of events leading up to the NATO Summit.

Organizers will attempt to make the summit of world leaders coming to Chicago a teachable moment for Chicago students.

"They have one exposure to America and you just gave them a multi-dimensional exposure to America," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

NATO Assistant Secretary General Kolinda Grabar coordinated the exchange, and said education and understanding is part of creating a more peaceful world.

"The benefits are connecting people together, but also demonstrating what is actually going on and what are the good things that are happening," Grabar said.

At the UIC forum, a conference on the future of Baltic nations draws the deputy national security advisor to president Obama to town.

Ben Rhodes said the U.S. will sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan in the coming weeks to strengthen connections between our nations that go beyond security.

"What we want to have is a normal relationship between two sovereign states like we have around the world like we have with Iraq for instance and brought that war to an end," Rhodes said. "That will hopefully involve continuing exchanges like we've seen in Chicago again where we are strengthening Afghan education and increasing the bonds between our people."

There will be other activities geared toward students relating to the NATO Summit and Cultural Exchange.

A kite festival will be held during the summit weekend and there will be a soccer and basketball games with an emphasis on connecting communities with origins in NATO member nations.