Bolingbrook teen introduced to fine China
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent August 28, 2013 1:48PM
Bolingbrook High School Principal Michael White (left) congratulates BHS junior Justin Payton at the Valley View School District board meeting on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. Also pictured are his mother, Dorletta, and his father, Mark. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 30, 2013 7:13AM
Justin Payton of Bolingbrook has a broad understanding of global relations and entrepreneurship, thanks to two separate summer experiences.
From June 22 through July 6, Justin, 16, and 20 other high school students selected by the Chicago Urban League visited Beijing and Shanghai to learn more about China’s schools, government, family life, art and culture.
Two weeks later, Justin traveled to Florida, where he earned a gold medal in entrepreneurship at the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics. That national competition was from July 11 to 14.
“I was really excited when these opportunities came up in my life,” Justin said, “so I wanted to take advantage of them.”
The China trip required several months of preparation that included weekly homework, workshops, field trips and group dinners, all covering both black and Chinese history along with Chinese language.
“He’s into cultures, period, and history in general. But Chinese culture was new to him,” said Dorletta Payton, Justin’s mother. “This experience really expanded his boundaries and took him out of his comfort zone.”
Topics Justin and the other students studied as part of the pre-trip curriculum included Chinese philosophy, education and government; and China’s foreign relations policy.
“They told us that in old times, the Chinese were very poor to have silverware so they carved wood and got chopsticks,” said Justin, who tried Peking duck during one of those group dinners.
The students also examined the country’s development in economics, minority and ethnic groups, anti-poverty, environmental conservation, alternative energy and technology. As he learned, Justin pondered what the actual experience of being in China might entail.
“The Great Wall of China was the first thing that popped into my head,” Justin said. “I thought about the one-child policy, how crowded China might be because the country is known for its population and if people would stare at us since they had not ever seen an African-American person.”
Once there, Justin got an overall impression about China’s high regard for tradition in terms of food, culture, family values and the assumption that the younger generation will care for their older relatives.
“I met someone who was an only child,” Justin said. “He has to help both sets of grandparents and his parents when he gets older. That’s a big challenge.”
Chinese students also spend more hours in school than their American counterparts, Justin said. College openings are slim, so competition for them begins in childhood and is quite strenuous.
“Some say they only get about four hours of sleep because they have to stay up all night during their work,” Justin said. “They say, ‘Sleep comes last. We have to get our work done.’ ”
Although Justin wishes the group could have traveled further west to some of the villages, he did climb the Great Wall of China, visit the Forbidden City, attend lectures about China’s economy and participate in dragon boat racing.
Much of the food consisted of duck, dumplings and rice; this last was served at every meal. The group rarely ate at McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken as the emphasis was on sampling food related to the culture, such as partaking of chicken for breakfast.
“Once they even served us a chicken’s head,” Justin said.
Fast-food, Chinese style, consisted of street vendors preparing freshly caught food as the customer watched. Children sometimes managed shops while their parents cared for younger siblings. Construction was in progress everywhere Justin looked.
“My impression is that China will grow rapidly over the next 10 years or so and pass us,” Justin said. “They’ll have a better economy than us.”
Shortly after Justin returned home, he traveled to Florida to showcase his idea for a Hawaiian ice product (similar to a snow cone but with shaved ice).
Elements of Justin’s business plan included ideas for flavored syrup (with sugar-free options for diabetics), as well as all the marketing and financial considerations for operating a business.
Although Justin did not make a prototype of the Hawaiian ice, he and his father, Mark Payton, did create a tiki, from which to “sell” the product.
“We painted the roof to look like bamboo,” Justin said.