Exchange students head home & arrive home

For over 3 decades the Rotary Club of Soldotna has been a participant of the Rotary Youth Exchange program that host’s and sends students to and from other countries for a one year academic and social exchange. The Youth Exchange Program is a study-abroad opportunity for young people who spend a year as an international ambassador hosted by a local Rotary Club. The exchange is for people youth 15-17 years of age who have demonstrated leadership in their schools and are flexible and willing to try new things.

On two consecutive evenings last week Rotarians and friends gathered at the Kenai Airport to bid farewell to Mauro Lotito from Chile and welcome returning KCHS student Tacy Caldwell home from her year in Brazil. “I learned that Americans are nothing like Hollywood portraits them.

My first surprise when I arrived at night was that it was still light. That only happens in Alaska. The language was hard in the beginning but I had so many friends to help me and I worked hard got better,” Mauro told the Dispatch in an interview. “I did a lot of cool stuff, skiing, cliff diving, snow machining, I even came to within 6 feet of a bear when in the woods, but the most exciting part of the year was by far the friends I made here, that was the best,” said Lotito. As he prepared to return to Chile last week that was very apparent as about a dozen of his Skyview classmates showed up at the Kenai airport to bid Mauro farewell. Last Spring the Skyview Panthers played their last high school football game so the helmets of the players on that team are a historic and highly prized item of memorabilia as there will be no more.

When Mauro was presented with his friend Logan Hinz’s helmet for him to take back to Chile as a token of their friendship it was an emotional time for everyone, Mauro, parents, friends and Rotarians who gathered at the airport to bid their son and friend farewell.

Mauro was a true ambassador of his country while learning to love Alaska and the USA. During his stay Mauro stated “I learned from my first host dad to have fun while working hard helping out and not to be afraid of making mistakes.” That counsel set the stage for his success story as an exchange student. He ventured into taking risks, learning the language, making friends, taking the opportunity of extra classes offered at Skyview High such us woodworking and metals and in his spare time raised $1,000 for the international Shelter Box program that provides first response anywhere in the world a natural disaster occurs.

“It is truly amazing to see these young people mature into secure, bicultural and bilingual young adults returning to their home land,” said Tacy Caldwell’s mother Gail when her daughter whom she hadn’t seen in a year returned the following evening. Calwell is now fluent in Portuguese ready to give back to the community as a mature young woman. “Being in Brazil during ‘La Copa Mundo’ (Soccer World Cup) was terrific even though ‘we Brazil’ lost to Germany she said. Tacy is looking forward to finding folks who speak Portuguese and is willing to teach in order to maintain her second language. Upon her arrival at the Kenai Airport Tacy was greeted by family, friends and Soldotna Rotarians.

To learn about Rotary youth exchange opportunities visit

More in News

A sign supporting the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative lies on the grass near the intersection of Bridge Access Road and Kenai Spur Highway on Tuesday in Kenai. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna introduces resolution opposing “Stand for Salmon”

The Soldotna City Council will introduce a resolution at tonight’s meeting that… Continue reading

A new fix-it bike station set up on Monday by the Soldotna Parks and Recreation Department and bike advocacy group, BIK&S, AK, is photographed on Tuesday in Soldotna. The fix it station features a bike stand, tools and a tire pump. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Bike fix-it station installed in Soldotna

Soldotna Parks and Recreation Department set up a bike fix-it station on… Continue reading

Customers pick out plants during the Central Peninsula Garden Club’s annual plant sale at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Saturday, June 9, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. The annual plant sale is always popular — this year, volunteers said that there was a massive crowd gathered even before the sale opened at 10 a.m., nearly clearing out the tables in less than two hours. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)
Shop Talk: Central Peninsula Garden Club begins new year of monthly programs

Since 2007, the Central Peninsula Garden Club has been educating and connecting… Continue reading

Karen Porter, a member of the Fireweed Fiber Guild, prepares some fibers while spinning yarn with other guild members Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the 2017 Kenai Peninsula Fair in Ninilchik, Alaska. The guild will host the Fireweed FiberFest on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29 and 30, 2018 at the Soldotna Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Fireweed Guild weaves together festival

Local fiber enthusiasts are getting their shears and crafting tools ready for… Continue reading

Kenai Peninsula College Around Campus for the week of Sept. 24, 2018

KPC’s Kachemak Bay Campus Semester by the Bay program participates in federal… Continue reading

School News for the week of Sept. 24, 2018

Soldotna High School The afterschool tutoring buses will start running on 8/28.… Continue reading

Community rallies around Nikiski firefighter Doss

Nikiski firefighter Levi Doss may still be battling cancer, but his family… Continue reading

Soldotna Community Schools Program begins this month

The opportunity to learn how to sew fur, master the fundamentals of… Continue reading

Brian Olson leads a meeting for the Borough Residents Against Annexation group on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2018, near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough Residents Against Annexation meet to address updates, elect new officials

Borough Residents Against Annexation group met Thursday night to update attendees on… Continue reading

Most Read