International students from Japan, South Korea attend Red Cloud High School

Students are part of exchange program hosted by teacher Clay Leonard

posted on March 16, 2011

Students at Red Cloud Indian School are learning a bit more about life in another country this academic year, thanks in part to an exchange program that brings students from abroad to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to study at the school.

Weizhi Long, a sophomore from Japan, and Junsang You, a senior from South Korea, walk the halls each day alongside the more than 200 Lakota students that attend Red Cloud High School. Clay Leonard, high school math teacher and head coach of the wrestling squad, hosts the two young men.

“These young men are both good guys and it has been great having them in my home. They are just enjoyable to be around,” says Leonard, who is now in his ninth year hosting international students at Red Cloud through International Fellowship Inc.

Leonard says he hosts students like Long and You because he’s interested in sharing the American experience with those who are interested in learning.

“They came here because they want to learn, and any chance I can get to help someone out, I will do it,” says Leonard. “I do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Long, who hails from Tokyo, says his first trip to America has awakened him to the differences between the two countries. And, he says, the transition has been difficult because he is still learning the English language and getting used to the idea of “being away from everything that makes me who I am culturally.”

You, on the other hand, has already had a year to adapt to his surroundings: This is his second year at Red Cloud.

“I love it here, and that’s why I asked to come back for another year,” he says. “Everything is so much bigger here. The people are very proud of who they are, and are willing to share their culture with others.”

“All my life, I wanted to come to America and learn,” You continues. “At a young age, my mother sent me to her English speaking friend in New Zealand to help me learn the language in preparation for a chance at schooling here. I am very grateful to Clay for allowing me to come into his home for these past two years.”

At Red Cloud, Long and You have been named to the honor roll while also wrestling for Leonard’s squad. You, in particular, has a grade point average of 4.1 and is currently ranked in the top five in his class. He will be the second international exchange student in the history of the high school to walk across the graduation stage this spring.

“Red Cloud is a great school,” says You. “My teachers are helpful, my classmates are very intelligent and Clay has helped me in so many ways. It will be an honor to graduate from here with all the people who have made my stay so wonderful.”