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RHS one of five high schools in U.S. to receive excellence award

May 23, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Riverton High School received the Education First Foundation Foreign Exchange Global Education Excellence Award this month.

RHS was one of five high schools in the United States to receive the award, which recognizes schools that have a welcoming environment for foreign exchange students.

RHS principal John Griffith accepted the award from regional foreign exchange student coordinator Stacey Peranteaux during a school board meeting May 13.

"RHS really does go above and beyond for foreign exchange students," Peranteaux told the Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees. "These kids are more than another kid in the classroom."

Students stay with "host" families and Peranteaux said they are "truly integrated" into the community.

Superintendent Terry Snyder said the district was grateful for being able to be part of these students' lives for a year.

"We gain so much from them," he said.

More than 100 foreign exchange teenagers have been part of the student body at RHS for about 20 years, Peranteaux said.

For this school year, Rut Englehardt, Jonathan Guenther, Rouven Hoelzlein and Gaspar Neuhaus arrived from Germany. Pet Khamthana arrived from Thailand; Francesca Salvatora from Italy; and Lena Wammer from Norway. Noemi Riebli and Victoria Scheuber travelled to Riverton from Switzerland.

Peranteaux explained the program and said students arrive in the United States with a proficient grasp of the English language. Most countries provide the dual language education, and it gives foreign exchange students an easier transition into an American high school.

Peranteaux said they become involved in school sports and clubs.

"They've really embraced everything that RHS has to offer," she said.

They also participate in activities outside of the school.

Wammer told trustees she was grateful for the experience.

"I will cherish it for the rest of my life," she said.

The other foreign exchange students agreed that the U.S. high school experience provided a completely new environment for them. They knew high school was a big deal for Americans, and in the end, they thought the hype was deserved.

"In America, high school is everything for teenagers," Salvatora said, adding that a student's social life is very involved with his or her academic studies.

Most agreed high school was not a big deal in their home countries. In Italy, Salvatora said teenagers have five years of high school, and students are required to pass five major exams at the end. Some students said their schools do not have sports teams.

They also said the community support given to students during club competitions or sports games is new to them, but the experience is gratifying. They said they most enjoyed the stained glass class at RHS, as well as other art and photography classes.

The students also will be part of the senior graduation ceremony at the end of their stay.

"RHS lets them go on stage and graduate," Peranteaux said. "We give them a honorary senior status."

Peranteaux said the school is excited to begin the year with a new group of foreign students, but it is difficult to see them leave they as the start to count down their last days. They build friendships with Riverton students and create strong bonds with staff and host families.

The school staff nominated senior Aisha Durfey to receive a scholarship from the EF Education First Foundation. The scholarship goes to students who reach out to foreign exchange students and help however they can. Peranteaux said Durfey has been a "great partner" with the students during her four years at RHS.

Peranteaux added that the high school has demonstrated a superior dedication to the host families, students and foreign exchange program.

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