BY ROB ANDERSEN
For the seventh summer, students will be coming from Spain to spend four to six weeks living with Warren area families.
Heather Espeso, a 1999 Warren Area High School graduate, now teaches in Valladoid, Spain, along with her husband Luis. Their family-run language learning organization, United Cultures, bring youth for an English language immersion experience.
"We will arrive July 2 into Pittsburgh and take a bus to Warren. Host families can meet us at the airport or at our meeting point in Warren. Most kids will be here for four weeks and leave on July 31st. There are a few students who will stay for six weeks this year," she said. "We will bring boys and girls ages 11 to 18 and three monitors who are in their 20s. All of the kids and monitors need loving host families that will let them be a part of their family this summer. This is the perfect opportunity for families to host without having to commit to an entire school year. The four weeks go by very fast.
"The kids come to be a part of an American family. They will adapt to the family's daily routine and participate in their normal activities. Families do not have to adapt to the student and don't have to plan special outings or trips. Just letting them be a part of the family is already so special for our students.
"The kids improve their English as they will be speaking it during the entire month. They come with a decent level of English, as they start learning at age three in school and are excited to practice.
"They come with travel, medical and liability insurance. All students come with a power of attorney as they are minors of age. The power of attorney gives my husband and I, as well as the host family parents, permission to be the 'parents' during the month. The students are allowed to travel within the U.S. and Canada and participate in most any activity."
Espeso noted that the students receive preparatory classes before coming about American culture and being part of an American host family. They understand that most families participate in outdoor and rural activities such as camping, swimming and hiking.
"My husband and I will be in Warren and available 24 hours a day during the entire month in case we are needed by the students or their host families."
Families and students have about a month to be in contact before arrival so they can get to know each other a little bit before meeting in person.
"We organize a couple activities, such as a picnic and an Amish dinner, for the group during the month but they are not obligatory for the families to attend of course" she said.
A United Cultures hosting flyer explains, "Many American teenagers work and may not be home all the time. With prior planning, your child may be able to take some time off. Otherwise you can make arrangements for someone else to be around - another sibling, a friend, a family member. While some downtime is okay, students should not be left alone regularly, as it leads to being homesick.
"Being a host family is a wonderful experience. It's a great way to learn about another culture and language from the comfort of your own home. Past host families have found that the experience unites them even more as a family. Being a host family is a great experience for young children to look at the world from a new perspective.
"Host families contribute to the understanding and appreciation of foreign cultures. The students and families establish life-long friendships, friendships that are particularly special in so many ways over the years. Hosting a family gives you the opportunity to teach and honor tolerance, acceptance, generosity and hospitality to a child of another country and to your own children."
Families interested in hosting should contact Heather Espeso via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Heather's grandfather, Phil Cerra, at 814-726-2879. A message can be left with Cerra and he will relay the message to Heather in Spain. Heather can call any families interested in hosting to answer any questions they may have. Families can also check out the webpage, www.unitedcultures.es, and their Facebook page, United Cultures S.L., to see pictures from the last few summers.