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Ellsworth hosts more exchange students than ever before

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Eleven foreign exchange students are calling Ellsworth home this school year: (from left): Lara-Carolin Auer, Ainara Perez Solis, Godwin Kudzo Gakpe, Sara Fumagalli, Maria Goncalves and Elea Pizzetta (top of sign left to right) Manuel Potes, Cecilia Gonzalez, Joao Afonso Vilas Boas, Alvaro Torres and Luis Gustavo Celestino Lorenzo. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

This year Ellsworth Community School District has expanded their student exchange program and is hosting more students than it normally does.

Ellsworth High School Principal Mark Stoesz said most years Ellsworth has three to five foreign exchange students but this year is hosting 11 foreign exchange students; this is "the most we've ever had," he said.

The benefit of having these students in the school, Stoesz said, benefits the Ellsworth students as much as the exchange students.

"Our students develop friendships and understand, know other cultures," Stoesz said. "[They] realize students from around the world are not any different from them."

The exchange students, Stoesz said, have many benefits when they participate in the foreign exchange program. He said not only do the exchange students improve their language skills they also learn about American culture, food and behaviors.

"I made the decision to come here because I wanted to live a new experience, improve my English, and discover a new way of life," said 11th grader Elea Pizzetta from Marignane, France.

Other students agreed that coming to America was a chance to try something new.

"I was given a scholarship," said 11th grader Alvaro Torres of Zizur Mayor, Spain. "Also I think it is a great opportunity to become more mature, learn and experience something new."

While Stoesz said by the end of the school year the exchange students fit in well with the rest of the student body, the exchange students admit there are many differences for them.

"Everyone knows everybody here and school system is different," said Lara-Carolin Auer, a 10th grader from Frankfurt, Germany.

Auer explained that in Germany they have sports and clubs to participate in but these are separate from school.

Besides participating in school clubs the exchange students are taking a wide variety of classes at Ellsworth and some hope these classes will better prepare them for their futures.

"My favorite class in Ellsworth is AP biology," said 11th grader Godwin Kudzo Gakpe of Kumasi, Ghana, "because it is interesting and I want to be a neurosurgeon."

Students said they did not choose to come to Ellsworth, but rather the town chose them. Auer explained that in order to choose a specific state and a specific town the student has to pay extra money, so she like many of the others chose to come to the United States and then were matched with a host family in Ellsworth.

Manuel Potes, an 11th grader from Abrantes, Portugal, agreed he chose to come to the U.S. but then his host family chose him and he came to Ellsworth.

"I start talk about come to the USA a long time ago, to be honest I never imagined come to Wisconsin much less to Ellsworth," Potes said. "But the opportunity just came up, and after doing some research I got excited. The town is really cool and beautiful and everyone is really nice for me and for the other foreign exchange students."

Throughout the year the exchange students participate in various events and give presentations about their home countries to other students in the high, middle and elementary schools. Through their presentations and also just being at the school the exchange students share their culture with everyone around them.

Stoesz said Ellsworth really accepts the exchange students and makes them feel welcome; this has been a reason some exchange students choose to come back.

"Our students have been incredibly accepting of all the exchange students," Stoesz said. "It's been a great two-way experience. Every year we have students come back to visit, great to see the amazing connection they develop with school, community, and friends. Several have even come back to the States to study due to their positive experience here."

This year's foreign exchange students at Ellsworth are Lara Auer, Germany; Luis Gustavo Celestino Lorenzo, Mexico; Maria Goncalves, Portugal; Manuel Potes, Portugal; Joao Afonso Vilas Boas, Portugal; Cecilia Gonzalez, Spain; Ainara Perez Solis, Spain; Alvaro Torres, Spain; Elea Pizetta, France; Sara Fumagalli, Italy; and Godwin Gakpe, Ghana.