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PAHS welcomes exchange students

January 26, 2011

Through the help of PEACE Inc. (ProAmerican Educational And Cultural Exchange, Inc.) and Rotary chairperson Larry Franklin, these exchange students — (from left) Daniela Gutierrez, Eugenio Rojon and Caro Feican — are part of the Punxsutawney Area High School student family during this school year. (Photo by Jennifer Barr)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Have you ever thought that your life was the “American Dream?”
Via the Punxsutawney Rotary Club and PEACE (ProAmerican Educational And Cultural Exchange) Inc., three foreign exchange students are experiencing America with host families that best matched their personalities.

Daniela Gutierrez, of Ecuador, is staying with the family of Lisa Good, while Eugenio Rojon, of Mexico, is staying with the family of Brian Smith.

Caro Feican, also of Ecuador, is staying with the family of Kevin Hughes.

Although the three arrived at different times last summer, they will all be here for 10 months.

Feican, a senior, has full schedule this school year, which includes Algebra 3, biology connections, English 12, independent living, art, crafts and gym. Among these classes, she cited English 12 as her favorite.

Although Algebra 3 is increasingly difficult, she said all her classes were harder in Ecuador.

Rojon, a junior, enjoys a bit of variety, after having a set plan for classes in Mexico. He has a busy schedule every day with math, biology, American history, gym, photography and English. When asked what his favorite class was, he said, “English is my favorite. Mr. Dickey is funny.”

Gutierrez, a senior, stays busy with her classes in civics, English, humanities, math, accounting, independent living, Spanish and gym. Her favorites are civics and gym.

She said Punxsutawney is much different than Ecuador as far as scheduling classes, as there, students must choose a major in high school and follow it with the appropriate classes.

Amid the books and studying, these students are also involved in a variety of clubs and activities. Rojon played football this fall and currently plays indoor soccer. Feican took part in volleyball, and currently participates in indoor track and soccer and Drama Club. Gutierrez participated in indoor track, Drama Club and Math Club. All three are members of Ski Club and Spanish Club.

In the midst of classes, clubs and sports, Feican said she enjoys her locker, changing classrooms, the bigger library and her clubs. However, she said she dislikes the food at lunch.

Rojon enjoys being able to choose his classes that may relate to what he will be doing in the future, and how the school is much bigger than his private school in Mexico, which only encompassed a couple hundred kids. However, he said he misses the dismissal time from his private school, which was 1:15 p.m.

Gutierrez said she appreciates not wearing a uniform here, using computers and interacting with boys and girls, whereas her private school in Ecuador embodied only girls.

When asked what she disliked about Punxsutawney Area High School, she said, “Nothing.”

While the students are comfortable in Punxsutawney now, in the first four months, it was hard to adjust. Rojon felt it was hard adjust to the longer school day, and Feican believed it was hard to get used to snow. Nevertheless, all three concluded that they had a hard time adjusting to the lack of the parties from Mexico and Ecuador.

Over the time spent in Punxsutawney, the students said they’re not terribly anxious to return home, as they’ve been busy with their classes, school activities and most importantly, their host families. They were all overly satisfied with the families with whom they have been placed, and feel they are like real family. The students described their host families as always being there for them and being very supportive.

“My host brother is my best friend from here,” Rojon said.

When asked if they will stay in contact with their host families, they all replied, “Yes, of course.”

The three said they wanted to come to the United States for an opportunity to learn English and American culture. This 10-month program will also help in getting jobs when returning home.

“It’s like a dream,” Gutierrez said.

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