STORY BY ALMA RAMOS
You may have noticed new students in your class during the last week.
On Nov. 27, McQueen welcomed eight Colombian students as part of a cultural exchange through the school’s Global Studies program.
This is the first time McQueen has hosted students from Colombia. The idea for the exchange happened when Mrs. Belle O’Neill went to the country in 2016 to participate in an educational program.
While she was there, she met Yanalis Romero, a Colombian English teacher. The two quickly became friends and, Mrs. O’Neill said, they just knew they wanted to get their schools together. They’ve been planning the trip ever since, she said.
The students have been staying with McQueen families and have started to attend classes with them. They will stay here for two weeks.
Juliana Gonzalez, one of the school’s Colombian guests, said some of her peers don’t know English all that well, but living with a host family has really helped them learn.
“It’s very hard,” said Reese Davis, a McQueen student whose family is hosting one of the students. “They don’t speak your language and communicating with him you have to use a bunch of hand signals and show him what you’re talking about.”
But, he says they are still able to play video games with ease.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 29, the Colombian students lead a performance for McQueen students during each of the day’s seven class periods. The performance celebrated many aspects of Colombian culture, and showcased a lot of dancing, singing and even some interactive parts with McQueen students and teachers joining them on stage.
Gonzalez said it was exciting, but the first time she performed was nerve racking. She said they started rehearsing the performance back in Colombia and practiced two times a week.
Gonzalez also said that even though some people didn’t know how to dance, she thought it was nice that McQueen students still made an effort to engage with her culture.
Before the group came to Reno, one of the host parents took them to San Francisco. Mrs. O’Neill also took them to Lake Tahoe and Virginia City for some local sightseeing.
Gonzalez noted how different everything has been, including “the culture, the students, the climate, everything.”
At the moment, there are no plans for McQueen students to visit Colombia. But Mrs. O’Neill said she hopes the school can work out a plan to do so in the future.