St. Francis students visit Costa Rica in exchange program

Cassidy Vogel enjoyed a firsthand glimpse of colorful poisonous frogs, exotic birds and other rainforest creatures during a two-week visit to Costa Rica this June. The 11-year-old seventh grader and 10 other fellow students from St. Francis of Assisi School in Baltimore stayed with host families in the small town Herediah, located near the capital of St. Jose. They attended middle school classes at a Catholic school called St. Paul’s College.
“The volcano was really cool,” said Cassidy, a St. Francis of Assisi parishioner who visited an inactive volcano during the trip.
“We got to look right down into the craters,” she said. “It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.”
Cassidy said a highlight of the visit was getting to know her host family. Her new friends had lots of questions about what Baltimore weather is like, and Cassidy warned one of the exchange students that it would be much colder in January when several Costa Rican students will visit Baltimore and attend classes at St. Francis as a part of the exchange program.
“They use Celsius and we use Fahrenheit in America,” said Cassidy, whose group was accompanied by two adult chaperones from Baltimore. “They would tell me what the temperature was and I’d have to do the math in my head to figure it out.”
During their visit, St. Francis students attended a Mass that was celebrated in Spanish and learned about Central American customs. The Costa Rican students spoke English, although some of their family members did not.
With most exchange programs targeted at high school students, Kevin Frye, St. Francis principal, said his school’s program is unique because it involves middle school students. Most are focused on high schoolers, he said.
“Middle school is an age where students are beginning to see the world from a unique perspective,” said Mr. Frye. “If you wait too long, it may not be as effective.”
The headmistress of St. Paul’s, Mrs. Rodell Sneeringer-Ramirez, is one of St. Francis’ first graduates who relocated to Costa Rica after college and started the school for 1,100 students in grade K-12. She initiated the exchange program with Mr. Frye last October, when the two unexpectedly met during an open house at St. Francis.
“This trip will help students realize that the Catholic faith is a world faith and that most Catholics live outside of the U.S.,” said Mr. Frye.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.