University of Vermont

The Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI)

Chunli's Story: Education and Disability in China

Education Leader to Visit UVM on September 20

Zhao Chunli with President Clinton
Zhao Chunli with President Clinton

Zhao Chunli, the key figure in an international effort to build a model school for people with disabilities in China, will visit the University of Vermont on Thursday, September 20. All are invited to welcome this inspirational young woman as she shares her extraordinary story at the Livak Ballroom, Davis Center, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. This presentation is sponsored by the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI) at UVM, and the Ginkgo Academy.

During President Clinton’s visit to China in 1998, Zhao Chunli, a 16 year old young woman with brittle bone disease and dwarfism, was forced into hiding because the officials in her ancient Chinese fishing village thought she was not fit to be seen by such an important man. Throughout her early years, the family’s subsistence fishing allowed for no medical care for Chunli, and, as a result of her disability, she was not allowed to attend school, suffered chronic physical pain and was a victim of social discrimination.

Today, despite her disability and lack of formal education, Chunli is employed at the Yangzhou Mountain Retreat Hotel, where proficiency in Mandarin, English and accounting are required. She is married to Mo En Yao, and the couple has adopted an abandoned baby girl, Monica. Chunli has recently completed an Educational Leadership Internship at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

Her story has aired on CNN, and Chunli is now the key figure in an international effort to build a model school and teacher-training center in China, providing inclusive, bi-lingual education for children with developmental, orthopedic diagnoses. This Center for Educational Excellence in Rural China, Ginkgo Academy, has received support from President and Secretary Clinton, American entrepreneur Chris Barclay, the President’s Office of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, Save the Children in China, the Gevirtz School of Education, the  University of California, Santa Barbara, and, most recently, from Judy Heumann, Special Advisor to President Obama on International Disability Rights. Dr. Craig Barringer, of CDCI, serves on the Executive Committee of the Ginkgo Academy.

Zhao Chunli, with her husband and Dr. Kathy Johnson of St. Cloud State University, will visit the UVM Campus on September 20th to present her story, to share information about the Ginkgo Academy and Special Education in China, and to learn more about UVM’s commitment to education and services for people with disabilities.

The visit is sponsored by the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at UVM, and the Ginkgo Academy.

For more information and accommodation requests please contact Dr. Craig Barringer of CDCI.

For Davis Center accessibility information see: http://www.uvm.edu/~davis/?Page=access.php&SM=menu_planning.html

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