Spartan headed abroad in new exchange initiative


Henry Anyimadu '23

Graham Labonte ’24 is the first recipient of this scholarship from De Smet Jesuit

了解中文和语言, reading this it may stand out as gibberish, however to junior Graham Labonte, it means a lot more than just a language.
Labonte was selected to receive the 2023-24 National Security Language initiative for youth scholarship which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. This scholarship will enable Graham to participate in a seven week summer Chinese language program in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
“I think he is the right person to be receiving this award,” Chinese teacher Christine Tseng said. “He is always curious and intrigued about the information which really helps him stand out.”
Graham will be staying with a family in a facility near the university and he will be meeting them online before attending. He will be taking four hours of class work a day, six days a week and it’s focused on simplified mandarin.
“I am excited to see how people on the other side of the world live,” Graham said. “It’s going to be a complete 360 turn from my life in Creve Coeur. I’m excited to not just meet new people but to see how I react to being in a new environment.”
There will be 22 kids in the classes and there will be a language assessment to determine which rank the kids will be put into.
“I get an opportunity in which I can travel across the country being able to learn something I really enjoy,” Lebonte said. “It’s definitely going to be a different experience. However I am excited and think I can take a lot out of this experience.”
The NSLI-Y program is a flagship initiative of the U.S. Department of State, aimed at promoting critical language learning and fostering cross-cultural understanding among American youth. The program provides merit-based scholarships to study less commonly taught languages in immersive environments, equipping the next generation of leaders with the skills needed to thrive in a globalized world.
“When the program picks the students it’s a long and heavy process. I have only ever had one other student receive the award.” Mrs. Tseng said. “I believe that Graham is the best candidate for this.”