Spent some time Sunday afternoon with some young people from all around the world, including two who have called Roxboro home throughout the last school year.
For the last seven years or so, Rotary clubs across north-central North Carolina have hosted high schoolers from foreign countries. The students arrive in August and remain until a few weeks after the end of the school year. This year, there were five such students, including boys from Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, a girl from Thailand and, in Roxboro, a boy from Brazil and a girl from France.
Those last two have been especially good to get to know because they’ve lived right here. They’ve got a little Rocket blood in them, too. Ruan Coimbra, the boy from Brazil, was a contributing member of the boy’s soccer team at the school last fall, despite arriving a few weeks after soccer practice had started. In the spring, he served as a manager for the girl’s soccer team.
Ruan’s giant, easy-going smile makes him easy to like and, judging by the comments of his host families, he made friends quickly. Think about that. He’s in high school, a time in your life when cliques start to form and people make all kinds of unfortunate stereotypical assumptions about “the new kid.”
In other words, breaking into an existing friend group just isn’t easy. But Ruan was able to do it.
Anouk Lainel came to Roxboro from the Alps of France, where horse-riding and snowskiing are commonplace. Her first host family lived in the middle of town. It was easy for her to get from one place to another when that was the case. Her second host family lived just across the county line in Caswell County and her third host family lived in just about the complete opposite direction, up toward Virgilina.
But Anouk enjoyed different experiences by living in such varied environments. Like Ruan, she, too, found an outlet at Person High School. Hers was on the track competing for the Person cross country team and later for the track team.
Though more reserved than her Brazilian friend, Anouk became more comfortable with her surroundings and that’s when her real personality began to shine through.
All five of these students, and the dozens who have already pursued these Youth Exchange opportunities, will have richer lives for having lived abroad for a year. Their perspectives on Americans will change. They’ve discovered not everyone dresses and talks like J.R. Ewing. They’ve experienced prom and they will mostly be at this weekend’s Memorial Day service as we undertake a strictly American moment to remember our war dead.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the program these young people are taking part in, is also offered to local students. The Roxboro Rotary Club sent one student to France to live for a year and another to Belgium. They will return to the U.S. in a few short weeks and resume their education locally before they start tuning up for whatever comes next for them.