Foreign lands well represented in area

Monday, October 27, 2003

Starting in the early 1960s, McCook and surrounding communities have been enriched by students from foreign lands.

The program started with American Field Service students at McCook High School and has since spread to schools throughout Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.

"We live in a global society," said Rick Haney, assistant principal at McCook High School. "It is of great benefit to our students to have multi-cultural knowledge."

It is also an enriching experience for host families and the communities where the foreign students spend the school year. This year, there are three foreign students at McCook High School: Vanessa Lai and Alexandra Achilles from Germany and Irina Yefimova from Russia.

"After our children were grown, we began hosting foreign students on a regular basis," said Floy Rockwell of McCook. "Since then, my husband, Don, and I have hosted students in both Kearney and McCook."

This year, the student staying with Rockwells is Vanessa Lai, 16, from Rastede, Germany. Truly multi-cultural, Vanessa is full Chinese and speaks six languages. She was born in the Netherlands and now resides in Germany where her parents operate a Chinese restaurant. Interested in ballet, Vanessa thoroughly enjoyed McCook's first community concert of the year.

For Alexandra Achilles of Zwickau, Germany, the most exciting part of school life in the U.S. is the team and school spirit. Alexandra, who is staying with the Mark and Betty Wilcox family, enjoys playing volleyball and is looking forward to basketball. Back home in Germany, Alexandra's mother is a physician and her father is the project manager of an electronics company.

The Wilcoxes have hosted both summer and school year foreign students, but prefer those here for the school year because the youth have more opportunities for school and community activities.

The student from Yakutsk, Russia, at MHS is Irina Yefimova. She is the daughter of engineers, and in McCook is staying with Kevin and Roxann Geihsler. "She's enjoying her stay and we enjoy having her," Mrs. Geihsler said. One of Irina's strong interests is theater, and she is pursuing that passion as a member of the Drama Club at MHS.

Across town at McCook Community College, there is also a strong representation from foreign lands, with 11 students enrolled for the fall semester. The list of those from other countries at MCC includes six from Gambia and one each from Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Korea and Yugoslavia. More information about them will be coming in future issues.

Meanwhile, make it a point to greet the students from foreign lands. By spending time in the community, they are broadening our horizons and enriching our culture.

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