'Journey East: Finding Your Place' debuts Dec. 20 at Latchis

TOWNSHEND — “Journey East: Finding Your Place” will have its public debut at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20, in the main venue of the Latchis Theatre.

The focus of the documentary is Journey East, a Sino-American cultural exchange founded 15 years ago at Leland & Gray Union High School in Townshend by teacher Thomas Connor and fellow faculty with the support of the University of Vermont's Asian Studies program.

Journey East has given hundreds of local students a glimpse of the world as they spend a semester immersed in Asian studies, and a production workshop to prepare for a month of touring, performing, and interacting with peers on the road through the People's Republic of China and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

In exchange, students from the Inner Mongolia College of the Performing Arts come to Vermont every other year to tour and perform for a variety of audiences.

Journey East, having touched so many people from Southern Vermont as well as the students, teachers, and friends made in China, inspired 2012 Journey East alumni Giannina Gaspero-Beckstrom, Fraser Query, and Alana Redden to give a wider audience to the program by creating “Journey East: Finding Your Place.”

They say their hope is to spread awareness of the value of such cultural exchange to other schools and organizations, as well as to share the profound impact and redirection with which a cross-cultural exchange program can benefit students.

Filled with arts of many cultures, strong emotion, self-discovery, and inspiration, the documentary tells the story of students experiencing their once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Gaspero-Beckstrom adds, “We've aimed to highlight the strong and unique unity established between China and rural Vermont, a connection that may very well last a lifetime-one that will certainly continue on in the hearts and souls of the people's lives it's changed."

Many area students and adults - teachers, administrators and host families - are featured in the film.

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