The exchange students also went on several side adventures with
their host families. These trips included visits to Grant’s Farm and
the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis for shopping, Sky Zone, Cathedral
tours, local pumpkin patches, farm visits and combine rides, and
even a University of Illinois football game that included a stop at
Papa Del’s for pizza.
Families also covered more Springfield sites on their own and, of
course, introduced the Spaniards to more food.
The Beccue family made sure to take their exchange student, Luis, to
Chick-fil-A, a favorite restaurant of theirs for many special
reasons and now a hit with Luis.
The Spaniards also went to Fulgenzi’s in Springfield for pizza and
ice cream. Fulgenzi’s is a family-owned restaurant right across from
the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
According to Grunder, “We ate the pizza and it was delicious! The
kids enjoyed the soft serve sundaes too. And, surprisingly, they
really enjoyed the gas station out back...sort of sparked an
interest in all things Route 66. Our hosts were tremendous! It was a
neat experience. We felt like we had gone there for years,” said
Back in Mount Pulaski, the Taylor family took Jamie to Farmer’s
Family Restaurant and he enjoyed a horseshoe there. Some of the
students also dined at The Old Brickyard Pub and Grill on the square
in Mount Pulaski.
Spanish twins, Maria and Nuria, also celebrated a birthday while in
the Mount Pulaski. The girls turned fifteen years old shortly after
arriving here and had a pizza party complete with decorated cupcakes
at Pizza Man.
A stop at the Mount Pulaski Courthouse was also on the itinerary for
the Spaniards and they even posed for a group photo on the
courthouse steps with Site-Superintendent Barbara Stroud-Borth.
The Hayes family introduced their “Spanish daughter” Karla to
fishing, something she had never done before, and also took her on a
trip to Indianapolis for a basketball tournament.
The Letterle family even surprised their exchange student, Miren,
with a trip to Indiana to see her best friend, who has been in the
United States studying. The two girls had not seen each other for a
year and what a surprise the Letterle’s pulled off. A sweet video
captured the moment and the look on Miren’s face was priceless,
followed by hugs and tears as she reunited with her dear friend.
Also back home in central Illinois, bonfires and cookouts were a hit
with the students, who really seemed to just enjoy hanging out with
one another. The connection these kids made was undeniably a
beautiful sight to see.
One of the host parents, Jessica Hayes, put it perfectly when she
said, “I think one of the most amazing things was to see these
students transcend all cultural differences and just be kids and
have fun. They found patience in the language barrier, although
Karla spoke English superbly. Seeing our little community through
the eyes of others reaffirmed just how lucky we really are.”
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Grunder also went above and beyond to make sure the experience was
everything it could be for all the students and for the teachers,
Ana and Isabel. Her efforts included treating the students to
something called “Holipalooza” one day at school.
According to Grunder, the Spanish Club officers, which are seniors, hosted an
event called “Holipalooza” and it was great fun. “It was an afternoon full of
every American holiday,” she said. “We hunted for Easter eggs, went
trick-or-treating, sang Happy Birthday, rang in the New Year, served
Thanksgiving dinner and we had a special visit from Santa Claus - aka Lukas
Aylesworth. It was an event chocked full of our traditions.”
Grunder also mentioned a funny whipped cream story from that afternoon. “When we
served them slices of pumpkin pie, I went to each student to give them a bit of
whip cream as well. When I reached Jaime, he looked at me with a little bit of
disappointment and said, “Rachel, this IS America, where everything is big. More
whip cream please!”
Grunder laughed retelling the story and noted, “Just a fun moment of
acknowledging our differences and, of course, he's so right!”
The exchange students also became some of the biggest fans in the student
section at MPHS volleyball games. While here they got to see the Hilltoppers
volleyball team win on Homecoming Night and even rushed the court along with the
entire student section.
The Spaniards do have volleyball at their school but they do not have school
sponsored sports teams, all organized sports are club teams, Grunder noted. They
quickly picked up the purple and gold school spirit while at MPHS.
Luis also attended some of the high school golf matches and his host family
noted that he really liked driving the golf cart around. He also liked to talk a
lot on the golf course, and this prompted Corey to give his mom, Jeanie Beccue,
the look and the sign to keep Luis quiet while the golfers were trying to hit
By the way, Luis came to the United States as the quiet one of the bunch. He
quickly felt comfortable with his host family and became pretty much a nonstop
talker. He also wanted to destroy his passport and stay here, as he noted in his
farewell speech, which drew lots of laughs.
The Siebert family also took Ainhoa to some of their son Daniel’s soccer games
in Lincoln. Ainhoa also went to some MPHS soccer games, as dad Rob Siebert is