|The West Custer Library Community Room was the scene on the morning of July 31for global communications at its technological finest. On a broadband system made possible with the foresight of library director Amy Moulton and crew, a panel of four Valley residents visited with this year’s Finnish Rotary exchange student and his family in their Kauhava home, in a high definition video conference. 10 a.m. in the library was 7 p.m. in Finland, so the distance both in time and space was no issue.
Eero (pronounced “Arrow”) Prusti, who recently celebrated his 17th birthday, was flanked by his parents and an older sister. The family is familiar with the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program, having had an older daughter participate as a RYE student in Brazil last year, and looking forward to being a RYE host family in Finland this year.
The panel on this side of the Atlantic was composed of this reporter; Carol Franta, who with her spouse Joe and son Jess—recently returned from Finland as a RYE student—will be Eero’s first host family; and Rotary Club members who coordinate the RYE program, Dale Mullen and Mike Liebman.
The visual and voice clarity, and the Prusti’s fluency in English, made for a pleasant conversation. Eero has traveled in the US twice before, on family vacations in Florida and New York. When assured that Westcliffe, the Valley, and Custer County were strikingly different from his earlier American experiences, Eero responded that “the smallness seems very nice to me,” and expressed interest in pursuing mountain biking and skiing while here. In regard to academics, Eero looks forward to a new language study—Spanish—and “any new subjects available.”
His interests are eclectic, including sports and music, while he looks forward to an adult career in “anything that involves travel!” He plays guitar, is an accomplished volleyball player on teams that have won regional championships in Finland, and has participated also in soccer and basketball.
“It has been like a bluebird in the hand,” Mullen said, “to have this coincidence of a Valley student returning from Finland, whose family can now be the first host of an incoming Finnish student!” This is a first in the six year history of Custer County Schools being the destination of RYE foreign students, while county students in turn have traveled abroad.
Eero arrived in New York last Monday, for a three day orientation on life in America hosted by Finland for all their exchange students in the US. He was to be met by the Frantas at Denver’s DIA today, August 10. Franta noted during Monday’s video conference that the family was planning on getting him settled during the week before school opens on August 17, as well as engaging him in local events.
Eero’s third host family is already in place for March through May of 2018, but the RYE program is still seeking a host family for mid-November of this year through February of next year. Families, preferably but not necessarily having a student in Custer County Schools, who are interested in hosting Eero over that time should contact Mike Liebman at 371-0059.
– W.A. Ewing