Gathering from around the world

The Mound Westonka High School welcomed nine exchange students this year. Pictured, front row, from left, are: Alexandra Lykke, Linda Mueller-Veerse and Maike Sassen. Back row, from left: Laden Acanal, Julia Mueller, Lucas Yamada Lamarao, Horst Dickel and Rachele La Serra. (Submitted Photo)
The Mound Westonka High School welcomed nine exchange students this year. Pictured, front row, from left, are: Alexandra Lykke, Linda Mueller-Veerse and Maike Sassen. Back row, from left: Laden Acanal, Julia Mueller, Lucas Yamada Lamarao, Horst Dickel and Rachele La Serra. (Submitted Photo)

Mound Westonka hosts nine exchange students this year

by Lorrie Ham
The Laker

Mound Westonka High School hosted a reception Oct. 22 to celebrate nine students from across the globe who are making Westonka their home this year through the Youth for Understanding (YFU) student exchange program.

Principal Mark McIlmoyle took the lead in organizing this first-ever event, assisted by YFU volunteer Teresa Boser. Host families, MWHS staff, YFU representatives, Student Senate representatives and Superintendent Kevin Borg were in attendance, in addition to the exchange students.

“You’re not exchange students—you’re our students,” said McIlmoyle. “You’re White Hawks now.” While cultural differences exist, both the visiting students and the members of the Westonka student body have a lot to learn from each other, he added.

Superintendent Borg welcomed the students and thanked them for “taking the risk” to come to Westonka. Both Borg and McIlmoyle shared their own cultural exchange experiences as college students.

“Don’t stop being yourself,” said Anna Peters, YFU Field Director. “By being who you are, you offer a great opportunity to learn from you. Embrace your differences!”

Representing the Student Senate, senior Meghan Matt and junior Lila Finney also addressed the students. “We’re thrilled to have you here and look forward to getting to know you,” said Matt. Finney invited the students to take part in the sports and activities MWHS has to offer. “Reach out to the Student Senate or the Link Crew if you need some help,” she added.

Each of the nine students was introduced and received a Super Fan T-shirt, as well as White Hawks stickers to send back home.

Laden Acanal of Turkey is making her home with the Eric and Susan Hoversten family. She is involved with DECA and enjoys her yearbook and Spanish classes. She hopes to gain a new perspective on life by learning another culture deeply and being able to respect all other cultures.

Emil Hansen of Denmark plans to participate in swimming and golf at MWHS. He likes his student prep class, because he can get all his homework done. He hopes to gain a feeling of accomplishment and more independence as a result of his exchange experience. He is hosted by the Jim Franz and Janet Schultz family.

At home in Italy, Rachele La Serra likes to visit friends, take photos and go shopping in Rome. She enjoys photography class and chemistry because they are not offered at her school. The best parts of being an exchange student so far are seeing new places, different seasons and meeting new friends. She is living with the Tina and Scott Prchal family.

Julia Mueller of Germany is living with the John and Kristi Liedman family. She hopes to take part in the technical group of the drama club. She enjoys her English and ceramics classes. She would like to learn as much as she can about culture, people, language, the school and tradition during her stay. She enjoys the school spirit at Westonka.

Horst Dickel of Germany is enjoying his stay with the Karen and David Kolb family. His favorite class so far is drawing and he enjoys team sports and strength and conditioning at MWHS. Orange chicken is his favorite new food. He hopes to gain nice English speaking skills.

Alexandra “Alex” Lykke of Denmark plans to play basketball this winter. She enjoys her human experience and US government classes. Her favorite part of being an exchange student is answering funny questions about her country and sharing her knowledge. She hopes her experience will make her more independent and mature. She is staying with the Marc and Nancy Clement family.

The Jared and Linda Smith family is hosting Maike Sassen of Germany. She enjoys volleyball both here and at home. Her favorite class is marketing. She hopes to have lots of new experiences, improve her English and see lots of the USA while she’s here.

Linda Mueller-Veerse of Germany is staying the Terrell Christlieb family. She plays soccer and basketball. Her favorite class is yearbook because she likes the teacher. The best part of her experience so far is meeting new friends and spending time with her new family.

Lucas “Lulu” Yamada Lamarao of Brazil says he lives “very well” in the house with the Jack and Ramona Schuster family, where he was “welcomed with open arms.” He enjoys team sports and his favorite class is English, because he feels that is essential to his future. He hopes the experience will give him the experience to be a good professional in the future.

“I have had a wonderful experience with hosting YFU students at Mound Westonka High School, although my YFU experience started in the 1970s when my parents hosted their first exchange student,” said Marilyn Hostetler, YFU volunteer, former field director and host parent. “After being exposed to schools all over the state, I realize how unique our hosting experience is at MWHS,” she said. “While many schools limit the number of exchange students to as few as two or three, our school regularly welcomes up to 10-12 exchange students per year.”

Hostetler felt that the reception for these students and their host families set a new standard for other schools to follow, honoring these brave teens and their generous hosts and acknowledging the ripple effect of benefits of foreign exchange throughout the school and community.

Host families provide a bed, three meals a day and the opportunity to share life with their new son or daughter. The students bring their own spending money and YFU provides health insurance. Foreign exchange can go both ways, and YFU offers more scholarships for American students to study abroad than any other exchange program. For more information about hosting or study abroad, contact Hostetler locally at 612-419-7355 or visit the website: