A Happy Ending: Storybook Ball Helps Foreign Students Learn About US Military

Give a warm welcome to my guest, Chris Stiehl, a writer, speaker, teacher and consultant in market research and strategic planning. Chris has taught courses in Statistics, Psychology & Market Research at schools including UCSD and Harvard. Thank you Chris for your generosity and for giving your students the opportunity for this real life experience of learning about and helping our deployed troops.

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Foreign Students Learn About American Military

I teach marketing and market research at UCSD Extension in San Diego. For one of my classes, the students and I choose a charity or business to help. Since the organizations we choose cannot afford their own marketing department, the students become their marketing department for the term and write a marketing plan for that charity or business.

This term, we selected United Through Reading and helped to promote their major fundraiser, the Storybook Ball. United Through Reading provides deployed parents the opportunity to be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children, which eases the stress of separation. The USO ships the recording and a copy of the book to the troop’s family back home. The family is encouraged to take photos of their children watching the recording and mail those back to their deployed service member to complete the circle of communication.The program helps to keep families tied together, while the soldier, sailor or Marine is away.

The students volunteered to help with the ball and were invited to attend. We had hoped to have an impact on the Ball, however volunteering had a great impact on my students as well. We watched as Laura Bush addressed the crowd via video. We listened as Marines described their morale as being lifted, when leaving the battlefield to go read to their children back home. We saw video of the kids getting excited to open their package and view the DVD from their deployed parent. There was not a dry eye at the Ball, as the children rushed the TV to kiss daddy and greet him reading to them.

I have attached a photo of my students and myself attending the Ball. They had a great time. As you can see, the students are from all over the world (Japan, Korea, China, Brazil, Switzerland and France). Without exception, they learned a lot about America and Americans that night. Several have told me how appreciative they were of the opportunity to help. They gained respect for the men and women in the US military, as well as the spouses and children back home.

These students are going home, now that the term is over. They will remember the Storybook Ball for the rest of their lives, as they do not attend such events in their countries. They made it clear to me that they understand America is fighting for freedom, not just in the US, but everywhere.