HomeBlocksFront-GridSister Cities Offer Middle Schoolers a Taste of Spain

Sister Cities Offer Middle Schoolers a Taste of Spain

The La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Association organized a new student exchange program this year that allowed students from Villanueva de la Cañada in Spain and La Cañada High School 7/8 to take a trip and immerse into each respective culture.
Middle school students and two teachers from the Spanish sister city spent over a week in La Cañada Flintridge in February participating in a multitude of activities, which included a pottery class at the Community Center of LCF, a tour of Descanso Gardens and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, attending LCHS 7/8 classes and going to Universal Studios.
In March, LCF residents went on their own little excursion. LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold, his son, Lincoln, and retired LCHS 9-12 Spanish teacher Marian Price volunteered to go on the trip to Spain in March alongside five other students.
“We were greeted at the airport, with 20 or 30 people with signs and banners, which included all the host families, their school, their school leaders and a representative from the mayor’s office,” said Gold.
They spent nine days in Spain. The group toured the mayor’s office, traveled through Segovia and Toledo, and visited a school with Spanish students, among other activities.
The LCHS 7/8 travelers also got an opportunity to tour the stadium that Spanish soccer club Real Madrid plays in: the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
“I think the highlight for our kids was going to school with them,” said Gold. “They really enjoyed it. We went to school with them for a day and a half. Our five kids actually went class-by-class just like they did with us. I think they enjoyed the attention — they enjoyed immersing in the culture and learning a much different way of life.”
Gold said host families treated the travelers with a backyard BBQ, filled with soccer activities and other fun games.
“I think [the program] is something we want to continue and grow,” said Gold, adding that he hopes to bring 12 to 15 LCHS student’s next time.
Gold said the trip provided a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves into a different culture, and believes the trip created an experience that the group will cherish forever.
“You’ve never seen so many tears when we left because the kids have become best friends and they’re talking all the time,” said Gold.
The Eastman family from LCF also had their fair share of fun during this exchange program. The family first hosted two students from Spain in their home, providing their visitors a first-hand experience of family living in the U.S.
“We made it a point to also show them some of the major landmarks and tourist sights here in L.A.,” said Margarita Eastman, adding that they took the students to the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, the Santa Monica Pier and Beverly Hills, to name a few.
Their two kids, Natalia and Damon Eastman, also took part in the exchange program and visited Spain in March.
Although the family had visited Spain before, the kids were able to live day-by-day in a Spanish home and experience their daily routine, like eating every meal together, attending school and enjoying the architecture.
“My overall experience in Spain was so fun, so magical,” said LCHS eighth-grader Natalia Eastman. “It was really nice getting to meet different types of people and learning about new cultures and architecture and everything about it was really different, so I loved it.”
Seventh-grader Damon Eastman also said that his overall experience was great and that he made a new best friend within his host family. Margarita Eastman said that the kids came back asking to have more meals together after experiencing that with their host family.
Margarita Eastman also noticed a huge difference in the kid’s Spanish speaking, even though they have only taken a few classes in the past.
“And I tell you, it was only a week, and yet my husband and I were so impressed with how much more Spanish these kids knew when they came back,” said Margarita Eastman. “… It makes a huge difference to be in a foreign country where they speak the language, and then with a little bit of background, you’ll start speaking in no time.”
The parents were delighted with the experience and glad to have the kids participate in an exchange program so early in life.
“We were extremely pleased and grateful that our school and our community allowed us the opportunity to have enough to engage in this program,” said Margarita Eastman. “And we hope that they continue it. We hope it was the start of something that’s going to go on for years.”
Margarita Eastman feels like she benefited from the experience too, and now has families in Spain that she calls close friends.
The Sister Cities Association said that the exchange program was a hit and hopes that it is something that continues in the future.
“We are so grateful to have had such a meaningful cultural and educational exchange between our LCHS 7/8 students and the SEK School students from Villanueva de la Cañada,” said co-president Tamar Tujian. “In so many ways, the exchange was the experience of a lifetime for the students and the families who hosted them. Bonds were forged, and insights gleaned about how families live in our Sister City. What better way to have our middle school students become citizens of the world by understanding these very basic values so early in their educational journey?”

Teachers and students from La Cañada High School 78 had the chance to travel to Spain in March as part of a new exchange program with the LCF Sister Cities Association Damon Eastman from left Natalia Eastman Allegra Sernett Katia Tzec Aliyah Nguyen and Jarrett and Lincoln Gold visited the famous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium home to Spanish soccer team Real Madrid

First published in the May 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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