Meet our incoming Rotary exchange student

Ella Canzio
Rafaella Leal Câncio

Now that we are reviving our Rotary Youth Exchange initiative, it’s time to introduce the student who will be visiting Maple Hill High School for the 2016-17 school year.

Meet Rafaella Leal Câncio. She is a 16-year-old high school junior who lives in Ubá, a city of about 100,000 residents in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil about 75 miles north of Rio de Janiero.

Rafaella lives at home with her parents, Francisco and Marcella, and two younger siblings, Filipe, 11, and Heloisa, 7. Her father is a businessman, her mother a teacher.

She has studied English for five years, and grades herself as “good” in speaking and reading the language, but “poor” in writing it. This year, she is studying math, history, geography, physics, chemistry, sociology, philosophy, art, physical education and, of course English and her native Portugese. She also is a member of the student council, and has a strong interest in drama and movies and is considering studying drama in college.

So, what does Rafella hope to gain from her year in the U.S.? As she said in her written application, she wants to “get more mature, open my mind, grow up as a person, and learn a new culture.”

Rafaella and her family at home.
Rafaella and her family at home.

A.J. Amato named Youth Exchange Officer

A.J. Amato
A.J. Amato

A.J. Amato has accepted the position of Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) for our club’s 2014-15 Rotary Year.

In that role, he will act as our liaison with local high schools — Columbia, Maple Hill, Rensselaer, Troy and Tamarac — to encourage presentation in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, which brings students to the U.S. and sends American students abroad under Rotary’s auspices.

Because some of our members have experience with the workings with Youth Exchange and A.J. is new to this role we would appreciate offering him a helping hand to get grounded in this important role.


Catching up with our Rotary Youth Exchange

Picture 3It is rare that we get feedback from our Rotary Youth Exchange students during their great adventures.

So, I was surprised to see these postings on the District 7190 Facebook page to which they apparently wrote. I hope you’ll enjoy these updates, which I picked up verbatim.

ALYXE PERRY, studying in Belgium:

Hi everyone!

So I have been super busy and having the time of my life here in Belgium. I have been traveling around a lot. A few weeks ago I went to London and Paris with Rotary and then to Bruxelles and other cities with my friends.

I love having the public transportation because I don’t have to rely on my host parents for rides. It’s awesome.

School is okay, Still really different than home. I don’t think i’ll ever get completely used to it. The days are so long and the classes are so boring! We are actually taking exams now before the christmas break starts. I only have to take 4, but a lot of my rotary friends in other schools don’t have to take any. My school is really strict with exchange students and want’s us to do all the same stuff as the other kids, which is hard sometimes with the language barrier.

Speaking of language things are going really well. I’m learning a lot, not fluent yet but I understand 90% of what I hear and I can manage to say all I need to say.

My host family is really nice! For thanksgiving we didn’t do anything special and they knew it was a big holiday for me at home so my host mom made me a chocolate cake in the shape of a heart. It was so sweet.

Right now there are a lot of “Marche de noel” things being set up in towns all over for christmas. The Marche de Noel is just basically a christmas market with a lot of artesian products. The one in the town I go to school in is going on now so my friends and I spent last weekend there. I am going to Denmark in a couple weeks to visit Jasmin, the exchange student that my club hosted last year. I am so excited for that! Everything is going great, but I”m realizing the year is going way to fast. I never want exchange to end!!

Hope all is well with everyone else!

AUBREY RACZ, studying in Ecuador:

Everything is still great with my health, family, school, and Rotary. Im still going to school everyday. The principal gave all the exchange students a project that consisted of a minimum of 10 page paper and a power point presentation. I spoke about 9/11. Two of my ecuadorian friends asked a teacher who heard us all present who was the best, and she said me and one of my friends from switzerland, so that made me feel really good!! Some of the exchange students have to present again because it wasn’t good enough.

I definitely still feel accepted by the students (we are doing Secret Santa). I go to Rotary meetings every wednesday. One Saturday we had a party because it was the 75th aniversary of my club. We got dressed up and it was pretty fun, dancing and eating. Also, the chairman of my club told me that I might get reimbursed for some of the things that got stolen from me.

My family took me to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. It was amazing and I loved it. It was nice to feel some cold weather to get me more in the mood for Christmas, as I spend a majority of my time here sweating. The 13th of december I will be going to the Amazon!!! I’m super excited! We are going to swim in the lakes and go hiking and bird watching and other stuff too. Im so excited!!

When I come back, it will almost be Christmas, and then new years and then the school year ends here soon after that (sometime in Feb) so I have a lot of fun stuff to look forward to! Hope all is well in NY! Chao!


Go here for the Events Calendar.


A message from Jasmine

Jasmine Bromberg, who just finished a year here as an exchange student under auspices of the Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club, is back home in Denmark. She posted this message on the club’s Facebook page. If you’d like to respond to her, just go to our Facebook page and post a comment. Or, if you want to send a private note, her e-mail address is at the bottom of her message.

Hey everybody!! Thanks for being an amazing rotary club! I miss you guys and the meetings 🙂 I hope i some day will sit in one of those meetings with you guys again! I hope the new exchange student will be as happy for you guys as i was and still am! 😀 I hope we can stay in contact with for as long as possible. I hope you guys had a great summer. I enjoyed my summer with my friends and family back in Denmark. I went to a big music festival short time after i arived home, I went to sweeden with my family to our summer house, and my friends visited me there, so we went camping alone at a big lake (it was a lot of fun). I started school about 2 weeks ago. I love my new school, everyone are so nice and helpfull with everything. We have 2 exchange students at my school right now, but i only know one of them, he is from Brazil and he is going to live with my family and I for eastern. I´m very excited to have an exchange student staying with me, then I can see how it is to have someone strange live with you. If you have any questions, just e-mail me : jasmin62@live.dk , and i would love to answer you! I talk to you guys soon!


Go here for the Events Calendar.


Meeting of June 2, 2011

PHOTOS BY BILL DOWD

President Terry Brewer presents a Rotary pin to our newest club member, Darko Sedlar, during his induction at Thursday’s meeting. Darko’s involvement with Rotary began when he was an exchange student from his native Croatia in 2000. He went on to graduate from Columbia High School and LeMoyne College, and now teaches in the South Colonie School District.


And, Terry presented a certificate of appreciation to member Mark Hoyt for his ongoing work on behalf of the club’s student and exchange student efforts. Mark also was our speaker for the meeting, presenting a slideshow and talk on his tour of China.


Attending (17): Terry Brewer, Geoff Brewer, Murray Forth, April Dowd, Bill Dowd, Deb Brown, Len Leonidas, Dick Drumm, Russ Edberg, Bill Kneissl, Doris Calamaras, Dean Calamaras, Darko Sedlar, Charlie Foote, Mark Hoyt, Ron Annis, Rommel Tolentino.

Guests (3): ADG John Musco, Gift of Life board member Joyce Musco — both of the Lansingburgh Rotary Club; Kayden Leonidas.

Program: A Teacher’s Tour of China

Mark Hoyt presented a slideshow-illustrated talk on his experience with a group of 27 U.S. teachers of Chinese during a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of China.

The seven-week language immersion adventure included teachers from New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, with most of the time spent in the city of Changchun (shown in red on map) in the province of Jilin (orange), bordering North Korea. However, during the course of the program, the group also visited schools and universities, attended a local wedding, bussed their way to the Great Wall, and experienced the Chinese rail system.

Mark noted that they frequently were met with surprise from Chinese people who found it unusual for “white Americans” to speak Chinese, especially in the city of Harbin, China’s 10th largest city. They usually have experience only with Russians speaking Chinese since their province is near the border with Russia and over the centuries there has been much cross-cultural interaction.

Mark said there are about 70 students taking Chinese language courses in the Schodack school system. He is hoping to make a similar trip to Taiwan under State Department auspices since teachers are allowed up to two such programs during their careers.

Business:

• Darko Sedlar (shown above) was inducted by President Terry Brewer as our newest club member.

• John and Joyce Musco of the Lansingburgh club attended the dinner meeting. John is the assistant district governor responsible for SRC and other clubs in the coming Rotary year. Joyce recently was named to the District 7190 Gift of Life board and made an appeal for the club’s continued support, including in the June 23 GOL golf tournament. They also distributed photos John took of a GOL-sponsored juvenile surgical procedure at Albany Medical Center.

• Mark Hoyt reported that we will have an exchange student from Denmark attending Maple Hill High School in the fall, sponsored by SRC. In addition, two Maple Hill students will be on outgoing exchange trips — Nick Hearn to Argentina this summer and Hana Wojnovich to France in the fall. He noted he has one host family lined up for the Denmark student, but needs at least two more.

• Charlie Foote briefly reported on his fundraising motorcycle ride to the Rotary International Convention in New Orleans. The group of 65 bikers raised $50,000 to put toward the eradication of polio.

• Terry reminded members that we are looking for members to host informal summer meetings. The first of those will be June 23 at the Forth residence. He also said we are looking into social events for the summer, such as a tour of the Harvest Spirits Distillery at Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie and a Tri-City ValleyCats baseball game at Bruno Stadium.

• Murray Forth reported that we received a letter of thanks from the Miracle League for sponsoring a banner at the field.

• April Dowd reported that she had elicited information from the two Joplin, MO, Rotary clubs about their needs, and Bill has posted it on the website. In addition, Charlie Foote provided a letter from the Medical Supplies Network Inc. of Tulsa, OK, that is coordinating shipment of supplies to the tornado-ravaged Joplin area. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to that entity, made payable to MSNI and sent to 1123 South Erie, Tulsa, OK 74112-5307.

NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, June 9. Speaker: Anne M. Cargile of the Rotary Foundation .

[Go here for the Events Calendar.]

Rotary unit helped scholars get out of Egypt

Rotary International News

Rotary International Travel Service (RITS) stepped in to help Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar Jamie Gajewski and four other scholars leave Egypt when civil unrest made it unsafe for them to complete their scholarships there.

Gajewski, from Madison, WI, was studying Arabic at Alexandria University. Rotarians and Rotaractors in Egypt took good care of her from the minute she arrived in the country five months ago until her safe departure. After widespread street demonstrations erupted on January 25, her previously safe neighborhood in Alexandria was overrun by military tanks and demonstrators.

“My neighborhood is a labyrinth of dark, narrow streets, and in front of every building there were bands of men and young boys armed with wooden planks, metal rods, knives, and guns, working together to protect their businesses and families from looters,” says Gajewski. “Overnight, this safe neighborhood became unstable and dangerous.”

Gajewski says that when foreigners were urged to leave the country, Internet and cell phone interruptions made it difficult to get information about evacuations.

“I began receiving worried phone calls from Egyptian and foreign friends from all over the city,” she says. “They heard reports of roving gangs armed with guns who were specifically targeting our neighborhood. Seeing as my roommate and I lived on the ground floor, our friends, including Rotaractors I met, began to devise a plan to get us out of our apartment and into a safer area.”

Using a landline phone, Gajewski was able to reach her mother, Janet, who contacted RITS. Within 24 hours, RITS secured transportation to the airport, as well as a plane ticket to Kuwait. It also obtained flights out of the country for four other Rotary Scholars.

“It was pretty scary not having reliable communication with anyone. Since the Internet was shut down, all I brought to the airport was a slip of paper with my ticket number written on it,” says Gajewski. “Within a few hours, I was in Kuwait and continued on to Germany, Belgium, and finally France. I’m very lucky Rotary was there to pull me out.”

Gajewski says the Egyptian Rotarians and Rotaractors she met became close friends.

“They were involved in every facet of my life,” she says. “I never went a day without a phone call, an e-mail, or a personal visit from someone. It really was comforting to know they were there when things got bad.”

She says Rotary has a strong presence in Egypt, and Rotarians are already making efforts to help in affected areas. Club members are also handing out food to families in need. Gajewski acknowledges that it is unlikely she will be able to return to Egypt. She is scheduled to finish her scholarship at the University of Granada in Spain.

“I wish I could have said goodbye to my friends the way I would have liked,” she says. “I worry about their safety. I hope all Egyptians can achieve their goals peacefully and return the country to stability.”

[Go here for the Events Calendar.]

Foreign Exchange Student gathering update

Last week, as part of a long weekend, Maple Hill High School was host to the majority of Rotary Foreign Exchange Students spending the current school year in the area. Here are two reports on the event.

From: Wendy Nolan, Castleton Elementary School,
Special Education Teacher

I just wanted to share with everyone what a huge success the Rotary Foreign Student Exchange weekend was and to say thank you to Mark Hoyt for setting it up.

We had students from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Turkey, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Venezuela, Romania, Switzerland and France. I also would like to send a huge thank you to Patti Racz for organizing many opportunities for the students to get together while they were here. These opportunities allowed the students to create some great memories and, hopefully, some lasting friendships.

As I talked with many of the students throughout the weekend, they referenced their visit to the three schools and how much they enjoyed that. It was really exciting to watch the community interacting with the students at the soccer games on Saturday. Saying goodbye on Sunday was difficult, and our students are asking about other weekend opportunities. I hope that this is something that Maple Hill will continue to be a part of.

I would just to say thank you again to everyone involved that made this happen. It was truly a rewarding experience.

From: Mark Hoyt,  Maple Hill High School
Social Studies 7-12
Mandarin Chinese 7-12

Thanks, Wendy, for the kind words. Patty and I had a great time while they were here. It was a busy weekend and the weather was perfect. In fact, so many of the exchange students and their host families here in Schodack have stated they wanted to do it again real soon, Patty and I are trying to organize another weekend for more international exchange students.

Apparently there are a number of other exchange students who did not attend that might make our next one if we extend a formal invitation. We are thinking another weekend that has a dance (Snowball? Spring Fling?) and some other activity or event that might be fun for them to join in (sports? skiing? skating? hiking? camping? international dinner?). Once Patty and I get some community input, we will select a weekend and disseminate the information to all involved.

Perhaps collectively we at Schodack might try to arrange for small informal groups of the students to visit either two or three classes at one time or if the numbers are not too overwhelming, entire classes (such as the fifth grade group we visited in the elementary school) might be a possibility. Patty and I hope to get more families from the community involved in this venture as either volunteers for our fun activities or as host families. We had a great group that stepped forward and opened up their homes for the weekend but more are needed.

When the students left on Sunday, it was a 45-minute crying session for all involved. Very unexpected but interesting to observe such a strong bond being formed after just three days of being together. We have the perfect small-knit community that had a reputation in the past for being welcoming to Rotary Foreign Exchange students from other Capital Region school districts. Patty and I are just a small cog in this much larger communal Rotary wheel. I enjoyed the weekend enormously and will always try to organize this type of international event so long as I am here in the district.


[Go here for the Events Calendar.]