By Helen KANTOR
Two dozen local families have opened their homes to the world as foreign exchange students called La Crescenta “home” for the month of July. Students, ages 14 to 17, arrived from France, Italy, Russia and Spain just before the 4th of July.
Over that first weekend, many enjoyed the Montrose Hot Rod car show, pool parties, and local fireworks by the Crescenta Valley Fireworks Association. Others experienced camping or going to the beach with their host families.
New and returning students commented on the biggest differences they saw between La Crescenta and their homes.
“The buildings are much bigger than in Spain,” said Raul Martin, visiting from Madrid.
“In my town we travel anywhere by foot,” added Stefano Zocchi from Italy. “Our shops and businesses are in the city centers, and we don’t have large grocery stores in neighborhoods.”
“Stefano and I became Facebook friends before he arrived,” said Casey Magid. “He’s my first international friend.”
During their four-week stay, students have a full schedule that includes language and culture classes as well as organized activities such as theme parks, a disco night, beach outings and even a trip to San Francisco. Host families’ teens often join their exchange student for local adventures.
“This has been an opportunity to create some incredible memories in someone’s life who we otherwise would not have crossed paths with,” said Kathy Szabados, hosting Ombeline Armand from France.
Parents and students noticed that they have more similarities than differences. “I am surprised at the similarities between our student and my American teen,” said Judith Pettigrew, whose family is hosting Martin. “Their cell phones are an ever present appendage to their hands; they both disdain fruits and vegetables, and they can spend hours watching TV or the Internet!”
“Having an exchange student has revitalized my entire family,” added Cindy Brines, who is hosting Andrea Taraborelli from Italy.
Host families enjoy a cultural exchange that makes the world a smaller place as they get to know more about their students’ country and culture, while giving students a few meals and a place to stay.
After hosting for three years, local resident Natalee Kennedy is now the La Crescenta program director.
“Every year I learn many things from my students,” said Kennedy, host to Elena Ivanova, (Russia) and Guilia Aguzzi, (Italy). “They become like family and you don’t want to let them go!”
For information about hosting next summer, contact Christine Christoff at (818) 384-0083.