Rotary Club Of Los Alamos Hosts Youth Exchange Students

Rotary Youth Exchange students from Germany, Switzerland, Finland, France, Japan and Taiwan and Rotary Youth Exchange administrators were recently introduced to bird-banding at Bandelier by Ranger Cassie Howell. Photo by Laura Gonzales

Rotary Youth Exchange students studying in District 5520 (New Mexico and west Texas) take a break on a ladder at Bandelier during an orientation weekend Sept. 9 in Los Alamos.  Photo by Laura Gonzales

By LINDA HULL
Vice President
Rotary Club of Los Alamos

Kon’nichiwa, Bonjour, Hallo, Hei … are just a sampling of the greetings Rotarians enjoyed over the Sept. 9 weekend as the Rotary Club of Los Alamos welcomed six Rotary Youth Exchange students and four administrators from District 5520 (D5520) for the annual Inbound Orientation, which had been canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Out-of-town guests representing the D5520 Youth Exchange program were Michelle Freschette (Rio Rancho), Lorraine Huit (El Paso), Gary Armijo (Albuquerque) and JP Cheney (Roswell).

D5520 Youth Exchange students include Tinja Untinen (Finland), Gianluca Hartmann (Switzerland), Serena Kaim (France), and Sakurako Kamitani (Japan). Students Olivia Hsieh (Taiwan) and Hannes Wiertzema (Germany) are staying in Los Alamos for the school year.

The event and its complicated logistics were coordinated by Rotarian Laura Gonzales, a member of the Los Alamos club and the D5520’s Inbound Youth Exchange Placement Chair. (Rotary District 5520 is the largest geographical district in the U.S. and encompasses all 69 clubs in New Mexico and west Texas.)

The weekend began very early Friday morning with a bird-banding session at Bandelier National Monument led by staff from the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, and Pajarito Environmental Education Center. Rotarian Bob Loy, certified bird bander, helped arrange the outing. Ranger Cassie Howell guided the students, their host families, and Youth Exchange team leaders through the gentle practice of capturing birds in stretched nets and banding them to track data. Before they were released to fly free again, the birds’ weight, age, gender, body fat, and other details were recorded. These data track the birds’ dispersal and migrations, helps determine their lifespan, reveals their behavior and social structure, and estimates the birds’ survival rates and reproductive rates.

The students concluded their Bandelier visit with a hike along major trails with several explorations up ladders into cavate cliff dwellings.

With help from Rotarian Oliver Morris, the Los Alamos County Deputy Police Chief, the students spent the afternoon touring the police department with a special request for a photo opportunity in a jail cell.

The day would not have been complete without a potluck dinner at the home of Rotarian Elizabeth and Matt Allen, Pueblo Canyon Inn, and its beautiful outdoor setting.

Behind the scenes helping the weekend activities go smoothly were the local host families Rotarian Tim and Linda Bullock, Rotarian Oliver and Kateri Morris, and Rebecca Tredway and James Langenbrunner, whose son, Caleb, is a Rotary outbound student studying now in France. 

Rotarians Rob Metcalf, the Club’s Youth Committee chair, and Laura Loy, the Club’s Inbound Youth Exchange coordinator, also offered assistance. Rotarian Melissa Metcalf is the Responsible Officer to the Department of State for all SCRYE, the South Central Rotary Youth Exchange. This expansive region extends from Montana to Texas, Arizona to Tennessee. Metcalf handles the required paperwork for exchange students coming into this region, 123 this year alone, making D5520’s participation possible.

For more information about the Rotary Youth Exchange program, contact Laura Loy at 505.695.9666 or Linda Hull at 505.662.7950.

Rotary Youth exchange students made a stop at the County jail during their early September orientation weekend in Los Alamos. Local Rotarian and District 5520 Inbound Youth Exchange Placement Chair Laura Gonzales poses with them. Photo by LAPD Deputy Chief and Rotarian Oliver Morris

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