If anyone looks in on a special Sunday School class in the Northridge 2nd Ward, Orem Utah Northridge Stake, they might think they are visiting a Spanish branch.
Actually, the special class is a temporary one, begun to meet the needs of teenagers from Spain who are taking intensive conversational English classes this summer.The students are in Utah as part of the Pacific Intercultural Exchange program. A retired teacher in the Northridge 2nd Ward, Lucille I. Starr – or Grandma Starr, as everyone calls her – is teaching the visitors English at Orem High School, and 26 families in the ward have welcomed the students as guests in their homes for eight weeks.
Candis Patey, who served a mission to Spain, is teaching the special Sunday School class until the end of August, and most of the students are attending regularly. Some speak very little English. Their first Sunday in the ward, she greeted them in sacrament meeting in Spanish.
Grandma Starr puts the teens through their paces in daily four-hour conversational English classes. The Spanish students also are learning about American culture as they visit local tourist attractions and attend cultural events in the area with their hosts.
One Orem family has even given their guest a broader view of the United States. Orrin and Jacquie Nelson included 14-year-old David Cajon Fernandez of Madrid on a family trip to the Midwest. One stop was at the Church visitors center in Independence, Mo..
Eva Otero, 16, also from Madrid, is staying at the home of Stake Pres. Larry Perkins and his wife, Dawn. Their daughter Jill is the only daughter at home, and is the same age as Eva. The girls have enjoyed many activities together, including water skiing with the Young Women. Eva joins in family prayer and offers blessings on the food at mealtimes.
Sister Perkins noted that Eva was an exchange student in Boise, Idaho, last summer, and her host family took her to the Manti Pageant and Temple Square. When the family picked Eva up at the airport July 8, "the first thing she wanted to do was go to Temple Square again."
Eva said the students can choose where they want to go in the exchange program. Many choose Utah because, in their words, "We like to go to Mormon families. We know they'll be good families."
Grandma Starr said the students will refer to hosts as their "Utah families" the rest of their lives; "they'll love them that much."
There are sure to be a lot of tears when the students fly out of Salt Lake City Sept. 2, she added.