Exchange students from Spain study at River Hill High for month


July 23, 1998|By Geri Hastings | Geri Hastings,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WESTERN HOWARD County is experiencing a touch of Spain.

This summer, neighbors are sharing the rural ambience with 24 Spanish students and their chaperon.

The students, ranging in age from 13 to 18, arrived June 25 to begin a monthlong visit that will end tomorrow.

The program is sponsored by Global Friendships Interway.

Living in the neighborhood, the Spanish students are becoming more familiar with American culture and proficient in English.

Katherine McGuinn and Maureen Shelley, who teach Spanish at River Hill High School in Clarksville, have been conducting English classes for the students at the school each morning, with other activities later in the day.

McGuinn said she is pleased with the students' abilities and their progress.

She said she considers the program a success.

The students seem to agree. Four have visited here twice.

McGuinn credits the program's experienced administrators.

Matching students with the right host families is one of the keys to making an exchange program work, and placements have gone well.

The students bonded with their host families and said they enjoyed their visits.

Sports, music, and shopping seem to be some interests that families and students have in common. Because the exchange students love to shop, host families made many trips to the mall.

Cookies have replaced American cereals as the staple breakfast food in a number of the host households.

Cynnie and Carl Hood of Dayton -- summer surrogate parents to Guillermo Braulio, 14, of Madrid -- say they have had a wonderful experience with their student.

Both said they were impressed with Guillermo's command of difficult English vocabulary words, especially so considering his


Although her children are grown, and away for the summer, Cynnie Hood did not hesitate to sign up to be a host to an exchange student.

She met John Allen, program coordinator, when he was stationed at the River Hill Giant store seeking host families.

"I went for groceries and came home with a student, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again," Hood said. "Having Guillermo has forced us to get out of the house and take trips that we should be taking anyway."

She said she has enjoyed meeting other host families.

For some of the host families, this is the second year in a row they have been saddened to see their summer visitors prepare to leave.

Emilio Sifre's spent his second tour with the Brown family of West Friendship -- Melvina and Rochell Brown and their sons Randal and Rustin.

Melvina Brown said Emilio, 17, has become so much a part of the family that she thinks of him as her sixth son.

Emilio's talent as a soccer player and love of the sport may have helped to endear him to the family. The Browns' five sons have been soccer standouts at Glenelg and River Hill high schools.

Melvina Brown spoke highly of the exchange program.

She said her family is learning about the culture of Spain and teaching Emilio about their dual American and African-American heritage.

Because many black families live in Spain, Emilio has been able to explore diverse cultures, she said.

On Saturday, the Browns took him to see the all-black Universoul Circus, which is performing in Prince George's County.

And Melvina Brown's mother, Viola Mason -- originally from Santo Domingo and fluent in Spanish -- has enjoyed talking to Emilio during visits with the Browns.

Randal and Rustin, who study Spanish at River Hill High and aspire to their grandmother's level of fluency, had fun practicing their Spanish with Emilio.

Next summer, as a graduation gift, Randal will travel to the coastal city of Valencia to visit Emilio and his family.

When not in class, the Spanish students have been sightseeing and learning about Maryland.

Besides traveling to Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, the students have gone as far as New York City, where they saw the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the F.A.O. Schwartz toy store. Dinner in Chinatown was a highlight.

On Tuesday night, they saw the Orioles and Oakland Athletics play at Camden Yards.

And yesterday, the students spent the day at Adventure World, an amusement water park in Largo.

Host families have also taken the students on trips, including a camping excursion in the Catoctin Mountains and swimming on the Eastern Shore.

A touching farewell

Members of the congregations of Jennings Chapel and Poplar Springs United Methodist churches said goodbye to the Rev. Sheila McCurdy, their pastor, on June 29.

McCurdy is beginning a new appointment as pastor of Mount Olive United Methodist Church in Randallstown.

In a farewell letter to members of the churches, McCurdy wrote, "It has been a joy to be your pastor, to share in ministry with you over the past five years. Thank you for your support and love to me and my family. You will always have a special place in my heart and will be in my prayers and thoughts."

The churches' new pastor is the Rev. Margaret Clemons, who arrived June 30.

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