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Last updated: Fri. Aug. 08, 2014 - 07:24 am EDT

Moroccan exchange students get a sweet lesson

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Exchange students from Morocco got a “sweet” lesson in chemistry Thursday morning at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast.

The lesson was the chemistry of chocolate. The 20 high school students – 12 from Morocco and eight American ambassador students – got a lesson in acids and bases, just why chocolate won't dissolve in water and why chewing gum is dissolved by chocolate.

The high school-age exchange students are part of a three-week STEM Plus program. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

According to Ivy Tech, STEM Plus “partners Ivy Tech Community College Northeast with the European Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship Education, which helps students find opportunities that correspond to their fields of study, skills, and wishes. The related camp, STEM Plus Africa Camp, is the first of its kind at Ivy Tech Northeast.”

The students are high school juniors and seniors at El Maarji, a private high school in Beni Mellal, Morocco. During their three weeks here the students will learn about STEM education and related career fields. For most of them it is their first trip to the US.

Aya Allali, 15, from Settat, said coming to America has long been a dream of hers. She was really looking forward to the opportunity today of building a robot.

Next to her at the lab table on Thursday, Imane El Khantouti said she too has always wanted to come to America. Although she is very interested in science, she said she has always loved to follow what American celebrities are doing.

Both girls said being a teenager in Morocco is not so different from here. Just like many American teenagers they play Wii and Xbox games. And just like many American teenagers they would like to go to university, possibly in the United States, said Allali with a twinkle in her eye.

Across the room, classmate Ghizlane Najdi, 17, said what surprised her the most was how friendly and helpful Americans are.

“Everyone is so kind and wonderful. I thought people might keep more of a distance,” Najdi said.

Lubna Hamed, Ivy Tech chemistry instructor and group leader for the students, said she was very happy that Ivy Tech had asked her to work with the exchange group. Hamed said experiences like this teach young adults that people halfway around the world are not so very different from themselves.

The students will also be participating in cultural exchanges while they are here; so far they have visited a local mosque,where they met American Muslim teenagers. While they are here they will also have some cultural experiences, including taking in a TinCaps baseball game and a Snider High School softball game. Their studies will include a trip to Science Central, Sweetwater Sound, and, of course, DeBrand Fine Chocolates.

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