Niagara Catholic Jr./Sr. High School in Niagara Falls was able to fulfill the dream of 15-year-old twin siblings from the small village of Asturias, a principality in northern Spain.
Lucia and Jorge Lopez had hopes of attending a Catholic school in the U.S. to enhance their own personal development. They spoke about making new friends, experiencing a different culture and mastering the English language. The Lopez siblings, arrived at Niagara Catholic Jr./Sr. High School last September, eagerly awaiting the start of their 10th-grade year.
The teenagers had already been to the United States a few times with their parents, to such places as New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. However, they had never been to Western New York, and never without their parents. Obviously, this was a bit unnerving for them.
Deacon Dan Mackowiak, an instructor at Niagara Catholic and the director of Campus Ministry, and his family were able to serve as hosts to one of the siblings. Fortunately, Deacon Mackowiak was able to secure another host family, a nearby neighbor, to host the other sibling. The Lopez family had hoped that Lucia and Jorge could live close to each other in order to make this transition as smooth as possible for them.
It was easy to embrace the two enthusiastic, bright-eyed, smiling, teens. Jorge loves soccer, tennis, music and movies. Lucia loves music, dancing, photography and soccer, although she admits that she is "not very good at it." It was clear that the Spanish visitors were welcomed into the Niagara Catholic family with open arms. They both became involved in all things at Niagara Catholic including soccer, community service work, Campus Ministry Club, Homecoming events, and naturally, a busy social calendar.
Lucia and Jorge were constantly surrounded by a swarm of students. They were Niagara Catholic "celebrities" and were showered with a great deal of attention and acceptance. Jorge and Lucia excelled academically as well. They both achieved First Honors for the first marking period and were named December's Student(s) of the Month by Niagara Catholic's faculty and staff as a result of their many achievements.
"Their visit reminded our kids to be compassionate, patient and kind to others," said Christine Janese, geometry teacher to Lucia and Jorge.
The Niagara Catholic community thanks their Spanish friends for sharing their country and culture and for making an indelible mark in the minds and hearts of both students and faculty.
Maura A. Stack is from Niagara Catholic Jr./Sr. High School.