Claudia from Italy, nominated by the Degliantoni Family
Where do I begin to tell the story of our amazing exchange daughter, Claudia Massioni? She arrived in sunny Oregon last August and we knew the first time our eyes met that she was a keeper! She has given us so many happy days since she arrived from Italy. She fit into our family from the beginning. She and our daughter Gina have so much in common, including their love for drawing, baking and dogs. Many nights after Dad went to bed you would find the girls in the kitchen making some delicious desserts. Claudia was always asked to bring something to school for all her friends.
Family is very important to her, as it is to us, so it didn't take long for Papa and Claudia to make a bond. Many times during the week, Papa would call her to see how her day at school was. She graciously talked with him as if he were her own Grandpa back in Italy.
Claudia made friends very easy and also joined the Key Club at Clackamas High School and got involved in community service. After a few months in her American high school she felt confident enough to try out for a school play. To her surprise, she got a part in “The Crucible.” We were all very proud of all her hard work and finally the weekend came for her to shine. She had a great time with all her new friends and did a great job. Claudia participated in many school activities and joined many organizations at school. She really wanted to make the most out of this learning experience in America. She went to the Winter Formal as well as Prom. These are things they don't have at her high school in Italy.
Claudia was always helpful around the house. She would make dinner sometimes when I got home late form work. We always enjoyed her dishes from Italy. As time went on, she became more and more comfortable with us and even called us “Mom” and “Dad.” We loved this!
It's going to be very hard for all of us to say "goodbye" to her. She has such an amazing personality and is always smiling. Hosting exchange students has become something not only our immediate family has enjoyed, but also our extended family, too. Our neighbors have come to enjoy each and every one we have hosted over the past 5 years. It will be quiet this next year without someone in our guest room but we have many happy memories from each and every one of them!
Alaa from Bahrain, nominated by her RD Louise Lough
Alaa has been an exceptional student, getting all A's in her classes. And some of her classes are AP or college prep classes. She has spent more than 100 hours volunteering by helping at the local YMCA, and also in the Day Care Center at a local private school. She also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity at two of their local fund raisers.
Alaa has participated in two school plays, and the last one she even had a lead singing part. I didn't know that she could sing! It was a wonderful performance and she did an exceptional job. She has shared her country and culture both in and out of her school. She participated in a tabling event we had, and was in her national costume. She shared in helping me to find a host family for this fall.
She has also participated in our local Ayusa activities by going on field trips to the Capital Building and learning how our government works. She sat in a legislative session and asked many questions while gaining a better understanding of U.S. government. She visited a local college campus and learned how our education system works after high school. She was excited for the variety of education, and activities that are now on college campuses for students to attend.
Overall she has been a great addition to our little group here in Idaho and I have learned to love her very much!
Gonzalo from Spain, nominated by his RD Shannon Hale
I think Gonzalo would be a great student of the month! He has become completely immersed in his host family's life and at his high school. He has made many friends and has stated that he almost doesn't have time for all of them. He has tutored other students in Spanish at his high school, played on the school soccer team, and was the school baseball team's manager.
Ayusa Community Rrepresentative Nicole Pulliam and I had dinner with Gonzalo and the host family last weekend, and Gonzalo stated that he would just like to go home to Spain in order to have a dinner with his parents there and then come right back to stay with his host family and go to his American high school. I think that all of this shows how much he has dedicated himself to making the most of his exchange year!
Maurus from Switzerland and Ryuta from Japan, nominated by their host mother Louise Lough
Maurus has been an exceptional student from the beginning. It wasn't long before he was a member of our family and participating in family activities. His first was canning corn with a large group. He spent six hours working, shucking, broiling, and packaging corn. While doing it, he enjoyed the association with other family members. All of them have grown to love him! He attends all family activities and always looks like he is having a good time.
He also participated in all our Ayusa group activities, including a Capital tour, tour of a local prison from the 19th century, and a college tour. He was able to go on several trips, one to San Francisco with his Jazz Band group, and another to Disneyland with another host family. Other trips include going to Twin Falls where my parents grew to absolutely love him. He helped them wash their windows when he realized that they could not do it themselves. That won their hearts. He learned to play cribbage so that dad would have someone to play with besides my husband and I. Dad is 90 years old and mom is 87. Maurus was able to go to Wyoming and see other parts of the Western United States, as well.
Maurus has spent every other Monday serving food to needy families. He has also helped with several fundraisers for Habitat for Humanity. He pitches right in when needed to help others who are less fortunate. He always seems to appreciate everything and relishes in whatever he gets to do. The families and kids he serves food to really enjoy visiting and talking to him.
We are so happy to have had Maurus with us this year. We have grown to love him, a lot, and hope that he feels the same. He will always be a part of our family!
In addition to Maurus, I have been hosting Ryuta since shortly after Christmas. While Ryuta has faced several challenges while on program and we felt it a little difficult to break through, he has approached those challenges openly and made it through each one of them, making himself an integral part of our family. We love his smiling face and willingness to do anything we ask. He even asks to help when we don't ask him for help. He attends church willingly with our family and has made many friends there as well as in school.
Ryuta also volunteers on Mondays after school to serve dinner to needy families in a low income apartment complex. The young children really enjoy him. You can tell that he loves the kids as well. He jokes with them and after we are done he spends a little time talking to some of them before leaving to go home.
He has gone on all our field trips and learned a lot about our culture. He loves the sight-seeing trips and nature. I can actually see the joy on his face when he sees something different and beautiful. When we talk about it, you can tell in his words that he is sincere. I am sure he will go home and share it with his family. We will miss him very much, and hope that he and his family will come to visit us again one day!