Exchange student finds home in Wilton

South American exchange student and senior at Wilton High School, saw his first snowfall.

He was just finishing homework when he saw what first appeared to be rain through the town library's windows.

"I saw it was thick and moving slowly," he said. "I decided to walk home — it was very cold and beautiful."

A native of Ecuador, Lino is 17 years old, participating in this year's Rotary International Eastern State Exchange Program.

This is Lino's first year in the United States, and he will divide his time among three host families. Since arriving in August, he has been staying with the Amadors of Ridge Lane, who have been kind and welcoming, Lino said.

So far, his favorite parts of the country have been New York City, in which he saw Times Square and a Yankees game, and Washington D.C., where he marveled at the Capitol and various monuments. He is eager to someday see California and Las Vegas.

His favorite teacher at Wilton High has been senior science instructor Robert Perry and his guidance counselor, Daniel Katz.

Bennett Amador, a junior at the high school, has been a friend and "house brother" to Lino, and has often taken him out with his friends to help introduce him to the community.

Lino's favorite activities are exercise and soccer, and he has become a regular at the Wilton Family YMCA.

Karen Strickland, YMCA development director, and president of the Wilton Rotary Club, said the goal of Rotary International is to promote peace and understanding. She is also an advocate of the group's exchange program.

One of her draws to Rotary, as opposed to other community activist organizations, is the "international focus and opportunities to get involved overseas," she said.

The exchange procedure is handled by Eastern States Student Exchange, known as ESSEX, which is responsible for foreign students coming into the United States and Americans going abroad.

Founded in 1966, ESSEX helps organize long- and short-term Rotary student exchanges for 16 states in the eastern United States, and areas of Canada and Bermuda.

Each year, Rotary Youth Exchange provides about 8,000 young people chances to gain a broad world view with financial and lodging help from the club.

Rotary International is a collaboration of 1.2 million business and professional leaders worldwide. There are about 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries.

Challenges that Rotary International hopes to address include illiteracy, disease, hunger, poverty, the need for safe water, and environmental concerns.

The student exchange program typically offers two basic packages: a long-term program which is about 11 months long and a short-term, three- to six-week trip.

Lino will be returning to his family in Ecuador in July of next year. He said he is not very homesick, but misses his younger sister and brother.

Information: 1-888-768-2799.