Walton camp brings Spaniards to Cobb
by Sarah Westwood
July 18, 2014 04:00 AM | 4085 views | 4 4 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Scott Bittinger, left, demonstrates to Spanish exchange student Gloria Salgado, 16, the proper way to hold a bat prior to a friendly game of softball at Walton High School on Thursday. Bittinger has been the host to students from Spain who are staying with American families while getting a taste of the American life.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Scott Bittinger, left, demonstrates to Spanish exchange student Gloria Salgado, 16, the proper way to hold a bat prior to a friendly game of softball at Walton High School on Thursday. Bittinger has been the host to students from Spain who are staying with American families while getting a taste of the American life.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — Spanish culture and Americana collided Thursday when a group of Salamanca teens joined Walton High School families for an all-American evening of softball, hamburgers and July heat.

Walton’s Connecting Cultures summer program immerses 40 students from Salamanca, Spain, in a world of English, said Tripp Madden, director of the camp.

Madden said the Spaniards live with host families from the Walton community during their one-month stay, attending classes at the high school during the day and embarking on “culturally enriched excursions” several afternoons each week.

This week, Madden said, the Spanish students headed out to the softball field after Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s lunch to practice softball ahead of the game and grill-out Thursday.

“The softball game is a backdrop to the parents being there and talking to students, strengthening the strong bond between them and the Walton community,” he said of the event, which took place at the high school’s home field.

The English classes teach Salamanca students skills such as reading, writing, grammar, listening and speaking, Madden said.

Kara Pavkovich, an English teacher at Walton who will soon begin her fourth year, said the visiting students have kept her on her toes during the writing classes she leads.

“I think I’m the only one who doesn’t speak any Spanish, so when we have a miscommunication, I can’t redirect in Spanish, so they’ve tried to teach me some Spanish,” Pavkovich said. “They just laugh at the fact that I can’t roll my r’s, that I can’t pronounce their names, but I think now, after this camp, I’ll probably learn Spanish. It’s kind of inspired me to get a little more active.”

She said the Spanish students struggled to learn how to run the bases at first, calling the earliest lessons “chaos.”

One Salamanca student, Miguel Puente, 17, said this week was the first time he and his friends had ever played softball.

“You have different sports,” Puente said. “We play soccer, but we don’t have baseball at all. We don’t have softball. We don’t have your American football.”

Puente said this summer marked his second trip to America, having visited east Cobb last July with the same program in its inaugural year.

“I don’t know how people in the north of America (are), but people in the South are really open, really sociable and that’s the most thing I like about this country,” he said.

Bonny Portwood — whose daughters, Sarah, 16, and Molly, 14, study Spanish in school — said the pair of Spanish teens staying in her home took some time to warm up to her when they arrived June 28th.

Now, Portwood said, she and her daughters have grown close to the girls and are enjoying the summer together.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “We had a wonderful time last year, as well as this year.”

Portwood said she hosted two girls for the first half of last year’s camp and added two boys for the second half, ending the month with a total of four Spanish students in her home.

Though she admitted she knows “very little” Spanish, she said her daughter Sarah has been teaching her words here and there.

“We’ll be talking about the most random thing, and we’ll discover there’s a big difference between here and Spain that you wouldn’t have thought about,” said Sarah, a rising junior at Walton.

Sarah said dining habits constituted a major difference between American and Spanish customs.

The Salamanca students eat dinner around 10 p.m., she said, just before they go to bed.

“They never go out to breakfast,” Sarah added. “That’s not a thing.”

Molly Portwood, who will be a Walton freshman this fall, said she has enjoyed learning from the Spaniards.

“I would say getting to experience another culture in my own house is pretty cool,” Molly said.

Ana De LaPuente Llamazares, 14, is staying with the Portwoods this month.

She said the biggest difference between her home in Salamanca and the Walton area is the size of roads and buildings.

“Here, the things are very big!” she said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Carlos Barrera
July 20, 2014
The Spanish students who come to the program at Walton High School are connected to the universities in Salamanca, Spain. The Walton HS community has been traveling to Salamanca University for the past 17 years and the Spain students have reciprocated only for the past two years. The Spanish students work hard at learning English. Their goal is to live in Spain as they will be the future leaders of Salamanca. The goal is to build bridges between our two communities. Our American students are going into universities as speakers of two languages and at least two cultures. The financial windfall is unlimited.
Karen Webb
July 21, 2014
Their Spanish parents paid for them to come over here and study. Not a penny of American tax money has been spent on them, but they have contributed thousands of dollars in Cobb County this month. Get over your fear & hatred of foreigners. Cobb County benefitted this time!
Proud American
July 18, 2014
Another example of foreigners getting into our country and using our facilities without any reimbursement to real Americans
July 21, 2014
Carlos, you were too kind by not calling out 'Proud American.' Thank you for explaining this amazing program so succinctly.

I, too, am a 'Proud American' and yet I sure as heck don't display such negativity and unfounded cynicism. Had that jerk actually taken a few minutes to learn about this reciprocal program that has been around for almost 2 decades, it would've saved him/her from sounding like a complete loser. That must not be a fun life to be living.
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