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Rotary exchange students stop in Lewes

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Teens from 15 countries on crosscountry exploration

Imagine being in charge of three dozen or more teenagers for a month. Then add in the fact that the teens are from a dozen different countries and are on the ultimate road trip, crisscrossing the United States by train and bus.

That's what Melody and Paul St. John have been doing as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange USA Tour for the past 14 years. The California couple has devoted a portion of each summer to chaperone a group of foreign exchange students from the southwest Rotary region on a trip around the United States as the final month of their stay in this country.

Melody is president of the Rotary Club of Hollywood, Calif., and the director of the Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii Rotary International Youth Exchange District.

With stops in Los Angles, San Francisco, Boston and New York, one might wonder why a stop in Lewes occurs.

The connection is that the St. Johns are close friends with Steve and Nikki Nieblas of

Lewes, who met the couple when they lived in the Los Angeles area. The Nieblases have joined forces with host families to bring the group to Lewes over the past five years. This year, 32 students from 15 countries accompanied by five chaperones spent July 6 and 7 in Lewes before leaving for Washington, D.C., early July 8.

While in Lewes, students were treated to a day on Lewes Beach and time at the Lewes Yacht

Club pool. They ate dinner with their host families two nights and enjoyed a bonfire on Lewes Beach.

The two-day stop has become a favorite because it is the only small-town stop on the itinerary, and the students prefer staying with host families to stays in hostels, dorm rooms or hotels.

Students began their tour June 13 in Los Angeles with stops on the West Coast in San Francisco and then onto Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash. After a stop in Glacier National Park in Montana, the tour hit a stumbling block because of severe flooding in North Dakota.

Because the train could not run, the group had to endure a 26-hour bus ride from the park to Minneapolis, Minn. No one had fond memories of the bus ride. They then spent a few days in Chicago and New York and enjoyed July Fourth festivities in Boston.

"We had a great place to watch the beautiful fireworks," said Valentina de valle Maldon-ado of Chile. "We laid down on our backs and the fireworks exploded on top of us."

The last two stops will be Washington, D.C., and New Orleans before heading back to Los Angeles and back to their hometowns, which they have been away from for almost a year as Rotary exchange students.

The train ride across the country will take two days, but it doesn't seem to bother the students, who have created close bonds over the past three weeks. "It will give us a lot of time to say good-bye," said Manuela Barrueto of Chile.

Original Publication Date: July 15, 2011

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