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Afghan and Tampa students are video pen pals | News

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Afghan and Tampa students are video pen pals
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Tampa, Florida - Two sets of teenage girls -- one at Freedom High School in Tampa another in Afghanistan -- close the gap in distance, language and culture using video conferencing and learn they're not all that different.

"They are just like us. They want to have fun, go out to the movies just like us want to be girls," says Megan Doherty, 18, 12th grader.

But clearly life growing up in Afghanistan is not the same. Megan says, "Talking to them about their families makes me appreciate my family more... to know at any moment they have someone storm their door and take their father away or their brother blown up by a landmine... that doesn't happen here."  

Chloe Stokes, 17, senior says, "Everyone is politically active. In the streets they feel there is change coming. That's all they talk about when they get out of school, what's happening in politics, what's happening in government."

Freedom is one of six schools nationwide chosen for the year-long program sponsored by the US Embassy in Afghanistan through Global Nomads Group's Youth LINKS program.

Freedom High teacher Ambareen Ameen says, "It's teaching them to break cultural stereotypes where -- myself included -- we are learning things we can't learn in a book or watching TV or a movie. By having these conversations, doing show and tell and having multiple perspectives, we are learning we truly live in a global world."

The students say they openly talk about controversial issues, including when American soldiers burned books of the Koran after an apparent security breach.

Megan says, "The girls were really upset the Koran was burned. It's sacred to them. But we also brought up the American flag being burned in their streets not too long ago. They were able to take our perspective on it and we were able to see each other's side better."

Chloe says, "One person doesn't represent an entire country's attitude. They understand that for us and we understand that for them; it goes both ways."

Despite some of their differences, the students learn they have the same goal. Chloe says, "I think that we can come to an understanding that both groups really want peace."

The students have met four times this school year using video conferencing and will meet another two times before the end of the year. Both sets of students are working on final projects together. The Afghan students are looking at a woman's education in their country and the Freedom High students are focusing on diversity among their peers.

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