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Pacelli seeking host families for exchange students

Published 10:16am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pacelli Catholic Schools has hosted foreign exchange students for eight years, and school officials are looking for families to host students for the ninth year.

“We still need about four,” Pacelli Exchange Student Program Coordinator Catalina Ferreira-Truong said. “We never have had a problem so we’re hoping that this won’t be the first time.”

Homes are needed by the start of school on Sept. 2, but Ferreira-Truong said an option for families who aren’t looking to commit for a full semester is to commit to one or two months while they look for full-semester housing.

This year, about 24 foreign exchange students are coming from different countries, including Columbia, China, France, Germany and Mexico. While most students come for the full school year, some may come earlier or later in the year for only one semester. Some of the students are already in the United States, and some are still arriving. According to Pacelli President Jim Hamburge, all the students are expected to arrive by the first day of class.

“The plan is that almost every one will be here over the Labor Day weekend so that they’re ready to start on Tuesday when school officially opens,” Hamburge said. “Each one of those students is fully welcomed and integrated into the community.”

Ferreira-Truong started the foreign exchange student program after she saw a need for it at the school. When she was a Spanish teacher, someone she knew from Columbia asked if they could come to Pacelli, but no program was set up.

“We hope that more families will consider hosting and learning about other cultures,” Ferreira-Truong said. “To know what it is to come from a different country and live in a different part of the world.”

The students take American classes and are required to be in at least one sport or activity each semester — “so they’re fully educated and full participants,” according to Hamburge. The students also take turns giving a presentation about their home, school and culture to the entire school.

“We have them share their experiences because that really helps everybody benefit from their presence here,” Hamburge said. “In many ways they’re just another student but in other ways they’re a unique student that brings more than just books to school.”

Not all the incoming students have the same goal. Some plan to graduate from Pacelli, while others already graduated but wish to experience a different culture before their schooling is finished, and still others just come to experience the different culture.

“They come here not only to learn English but to better understand another culture,” Hamburge said. “And particularly the American culture, since we’re such a major player in the global setting.”

“Either way, we love to have them,” he added.

This year, the school also has seven girls coming from the same school in Columbia. While it is rare to have two students come from the same city even, seven from the same school is exciting for Pacelli.

“That’s really special,” Hamburge said.

Ferreira-Truong said Pacelli already has a connection with the private school in Columbia and have had exchange students from there before. Yet she is excited for all of the new students this semester.

“It’s a good program for the students here, for the school. They learn, they interact, they communicate, they’re good kids and they come and do their best.”

She hopes to find enough host families before the school year starts, yet she is not worried.

“Any kind of family that is willing to open their home for the student and has a safe environment,” Ferreira-Truong said. “God provides.”

For more information or to host an exchange student, contact Catalina Ferreira-Truong at 507-438-7627 or 507-460-1926.

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