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UCPS students conference with Saudi Arabian prince

Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid Bin Alwaleed Bin Talal talks with students at Sun Valley Elementary School via Skype. The event was also aired on the school’s broadcast channel at Sun Valley Elementary and received at Benton Heights Elementary, where students were also able to speak with the prince.

Students from Sun Valley Elementary and Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts had the rare opportunity to talk one-on-one with a Saudi Arabian prince Tuesday (Nov. 23, 2010).

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the nephew of the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah King of Saudi Arabia, video-conferenced via Skype into Sun Valley Elementary’s media center, addressing questions from students and talking about his country.

The event was aired on the school’s broadcast channel at Sun Valley Elementary and received at Benton Heights Elementary. Students from both schools spoke to the prince.

The broadcast, part of the school’s “Children Connecting the World” program, was possible because of the connection of a parent at the school, Liz Benavides, a former International nanny with the royal family in Saudi Arabia about 20 years ago.

“We want to give students the opportunity to utilize the tools we have now, the Internet, to develop relationships,” Benavides said. “It’s about kids growing up and building positive relationships.”

Prince Khalid answered questions posed by students in a global lesson they’ll not soon forget. “Have you ever been in a sand storm?” asked Sun Valley Elementary student Brendon Ponticelli.

“We have really bad sandstorms here,” Khalid said. “About two years ago, I was in a sandstorm that was pretty bad. It was three in the afternoon, and as soon as the sandstorm hit, the sky turned red, and it got really dark. It was really foggy and you couldn’t see in front of you. It was very scary, actually.”

Khalid sent links to the school with photos taken during the sandstorm, so the elementary students could see what effects this type of storm brought.

When asked about the favorite animal in his country, Khalid noted that the camel is the most popular animal in Saudi Arabia because of the desert terrain. He also said that there are only two seasons in his country. “It’s either very, very cold or extremely hot,” he said.

Students seemed to especially enjoy Khalid’s comment about his favorite type of food, breaking into laughter and applause when he announced, “I’m glad my mom and dad aren’t here to hear what I’m about to say; but my favorite food is junk food.”

Khalid noted that he is very proud of the friendship that his country has with the United States, and thanked the school’s staff and all the students for the conversation.

The Skype interview was coordinated by Kevin Vickers, Sun Valley’s media coordinator. “It’s exciting for us to step outside the box at our school and explore other opportunities,” he said. “I was honored to be able to speak to Prince Khalid.”

SVES principal Patrice Parker said the video conference brings to fruition her vision of her students being able to have visual pen pals in another country. “To bring it all alive through technology is awesome,” she said.

Also on hand for the event were UNC-Charlotte students Mustafa Albasha and Ali Alnassir, both part of the Saudi Student Organization at UNC. They also spoke with students and with Prince Khalid briefly.

Lisa announced to students that Khalid plans to visit the school at some point in the very near future. At the end of the Skype session, students were treated to ice cream, courtesy of Khalid.

Sun Valley Elementary is currently working on partnering with an elementary school in Scotland where Benavides attended.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Nov 23, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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