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Strom Thurmond High Hosting German Exchange Students, Chaperones for Two Weeks

Johnston, SC – Melena Lauer watched with anticipation as the pitcher wound up. She heard a sudden, sharp “ting” as the ball met the hitter’s aluminum bat, and her eyes followed its trajectory as the ball shot into the green outfield grass.

Then there was the explosive response of the crowd, clothed in variations of either red, white, and blue or gray and gold.

Her first experience with the sport of baseball left a lasting impression on the German teenager.

“I’ve never seen a baseball game before, but it’s very similar to soccer games in Germany because the people are excited to see their team and to see them win,” commented Melena. “I like to see that part of the community and I was able to meet new people. There was a girl in front of me who helped explain the rules of the game, so that was very nice. It was a very good experience, and I would like to see another game in the future. It was very fun.”

Lauer, seven of her classmates from the Oswald von Nell Breuning Schule, located in Rödermark, Germany (outside of Frankfurt), along with chaperones Monica Lorenz and Christine Dobert, are spending two weeks as exchange students at Strom Thurmond High School (STHS). The exchange students include Hannah Tasker, Helena Stefanidis, Karen Felbeck, Kim Lechowski, Lea Grundel, Lenn Tietz, Lorraine Donners and Lauer. Their attendance at Tuesday’s varsity baseball game between the Rebels and North Augusta High School was just one of an exciting schedule of events for the German students. In addition to touring sights in Edgefield County, the students will also take trips to Charleston and Columbia.

Strom Thurmond High School German instructor and exchange program lead, Art Lader, is thrilled the long-planned-for visit is finally here. The student exchange program was organized by the high school’s LEO Club.

“We are excited to host our German partners for the first time,” stated Herr Lader. “We know this important partnership will create a world of opportunities for our students here at Strom Thurmond High School.”

Host families include those of Edgefield County School District (ECSD) Superintendent, Dr. Kevin O’Gorman, ECSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Stephanie Wallace, and Lader, among others.

Melena’s host family is the Raines family. Rylee Raines, a sophomore at STHS, is Melena’s American student partner. Prior to the baseball game, Melena attended a Teacher Forum meeting with Rylee’s mother, W.E. Parker Elementary School teacher Leigh Raines.

“We have a similar thing in Germany and It is good to know the teachers here get together each month and update one another around what is going on in the schools,” stated Melena.

Melena’s mother is an elementary school teacher and says her placement with the Raines family has been wonderful.

“Rylee and I are very similar, so it works well and we fit well together,” she added.

Their initial individual experiences with American culture – which included things such as attending a women’s basketball game at the University of South Carolina and eating at Waffle House – have left them excited about seeing more.

Lenn Tietz, whose American student partner is STHS student Julianne Harper, took in Sunday’s (Feb. 26) basketball game between the top-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks and the University of Georgia.

“It was very cool,” Lenn stated. “There were a lot of people and a very nice ambiance. They have a perfect season.”

Hannah Tasker, whose American student partner is STHS student Dev Lyle, had the opportunity to eat at Waffle House and it was an experience she thoroughly enjoyed.

“I found that very cool,” Hannah commented. “It was very much like you see in the films with the diner and the booths, and all the people were very nice. I was given a Waffle House hat from one of the workers there and it was very nice.”

Hannah was also impressed by the physical size of STHS and the many course offerings available to its students, especially those offered at the Strom Thurmond Career and Technology Center. In Germany, career and technical (CTE) education is offered to students only after the tenth grade, and in separate schools.

“The first day of school here was very surprising,” Hannah added. “The school has all these establishments, like welding classes, and students can learn engineering here. The school is massive, and you have so many opportunities to learn jobs and practical handiwork you can apply later in life. The welding bit and all the machines were just crazy to me.”

ECSD Public Information