Club welcomes exchange students

WARREN – Most of the foreign exchange students staying with families in Trumbull County this school year say they like Ohio but they find American schools easier than their home schools.

They also liked the snow, which many have never seen in their home countries, but indicated they are getting tired of it.

That was just some of several insights six foreign exchange students shared with members of the Warren Altrusa Club which sponsored its annual Foreign Exchange Night. The event has been hosted by the club for more than 30 years.

The Pax Academic Exchange program has eight students in Trumbull County and eight in Portage and Summit counties this school year.

Darryl Anderson, who has served for 20 years as a local coordinator, said as part of the Discover America program, local host families are asked to share their lives with a foreign exchange student between the ages of 15 to 18.

“For the first time in 20 years, I will have a student coming from New Zealand next year,” Anderson said.

“I just placed a student who will be going to Hudson High School with a host father who was a foreign exchange student himself and went to the same village the student is from,” he said.

Students this year are from Mexico, Russia, Spain, Brazil, China, Serbia, Israel, Italy, Germany and Sweden.

Jay and Tracy Bodnar of Brookfield have hosted foreign exchange students from Mexico and Germany in the past three years. This year Ines Serrano of Spain is with them.

“Friends of ours talked us into it. We have no children. It’s almost like the best of both worlds. Ines is very excited about school and looks forward to her future. She is great to have and like our daughter,”Jay Bodnar said.

Vito and Jackie Clapp are host grandparents to a student Mariana Mariconi of Brazil, who is staying with their son’s family in Howland.

“We treat her like a new granddaughter and take her shopping, Jackie said.

Giulia Bondi, 17, of Italy, is attending Harding High School. She said that in Italy, students spent five years in high school with schools six days a week including Saturday.

“In Italy, the students stay in the same room and the teachers move from class to class,” Bondi said, noting school is harder in Italy with more homework.

Alex De La Cruz, 16, of Mexico, who is staying in Lordstown, said he lives near Cancun and has been to the United States with his family on vacations

“I want to go back to New York,” he said.

Anderson said before the students come to be with their host families, they do an outreach in New York City.

De La Cruz, who wants to be a doctor like his father, is able to Skype to keep in touch with his family.

Anastasia Chernaya, 17, of Russia attends Warren G. Harding and received a scholarship to attend the United States

Anderson said Chernaya is part of the Pax state department program Future Leader Exchange, which involved her having to write an essay and do interviews to receive the scholarship. When she returns to Russia, she will speak about America’s democracy

Anderson said she is the first student in 20 years as part of the program to earn a scholarship.

Chernaya said she was aware of the Winter Olympics in Russia but noted they are not where she lives.

Wendy Ibarra, 18, of Mexico, is staying in Garrettsville and saw the major fire that damaged many downtown businesses on March 22.

Ibarra, who wants to be a teacher, has been to the United State, before including Tucson, Ariz., and Los Angeles.

Ines Serrano, 15, of Spain, attends Brookfield schools, where she is in Spanish VI class. Serrano attends a private school in Spain where learning English is mandatory. She said school in Spain is year-round. Her plans are to attend college in New York.

Serrano is one of the youngest exchange students in the program.

Mariana Mariconi, 16, of Brazil attends Howland schools and finds there are more class choices than in Brazil.

In Brazil, she takes 16 subjects a week, including Portuguese, English and Spanish all at the same time. She started learning English and Portuguese in first grade.

Mariconi said her father and sister were both exchange students. Her dad stayed in Pennsylvania and her sister in Georgia.

She has a younger host sister, Alyssa Clapp, which she finds fun since she has older siblings at home.

Anderson said in foreign countries often sports and pep rallies are not part of the school. “Overseas the students take part in clubs. Many exchange students love the sports programs and dressing up for pep rallies when they come here.

Families interested in hosting an exchange student can call Anderson at 330-256-6127 or