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Crailsheim exchange student selected

Lars Opaczek (left), Crailsheim exchange student, joins Jessica Velasquez-Herrera, a Worthington High School sophomore who will travel to Crailsheim in July to begin her year in the Worthington-Crailsheim Sister City exchange program. Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Jessica Velasquez-Herrera is both nervous and excited to be the 2014-2015 Worthington High School exchange student to Crailsheim, Germany.

Announced during the annual Worthington-Crailsheim International banquet Sunday afternoon, Velasquez-Herrera will travel to Worthington’s Sister City in July with current Crailsheim exchange student Lars Opaczek. There, she will study for one year, stay with several different host families and have an opportunity to immerse herself in the German language and culture.

A sophomore at Worthington High School, Velasquez-Herrera has taken two German language classes thus far.

“When I first registered for classes, I was looking forward to signing up for French, but they didn’t have it,” she said. Already fluent in Spanish, she opted to enroll in German and has had no regrets.

“The more I learned about it, it’s just really interesting,” Velasquez-Herrera said. “My teacher (Deanna Rowe) would talk about the culture and it just really interested me.

“Getting to know other cultures and other people, and seeing how they work, is just something that really fascinates me,” she added.

Hoping to one day pursue a career in psychology, Velasquez-Herrera said she wants to also be fluent in German.

The opportunity to spend a year studying in Germany is something Velasquez-Herrera had to spend a long time considering. With a 1½-year-old son, Adriel, she said she wouldn’t have applied for the trip without the support of her family.

“My mom (Angelica) is very supportive,” she said. “While she didn’t receive much education in her homeland (of Guatemala), for this opportunity she really encouraged me a lot and I’m thankful for that.”

Angelical, along with her younger daughter, Melissa, will care for Adriel while Velasquez-Herrera is in Crailsheim.

“It’s kind of awkward leaving your son behind, but it’s only for a year and it’s a really big opportunity that’s not really offered anywhere else,” she added.

Velasquez-Herrera offered her appreciation to the Worthington-Crailsheim International committee for making the exchange trip possible.

“When you see a young person with a kid, it’s not something that people look at you good for, you know,” she said. “I just want to say thanks for seeing past that. I encourage other people to try (out for the exchange), even though it’s very nerve-wracking.”

Velasquez-Herrera will join a long list of Worthington High School alumni to participate in the Worthington-Crailsheim Exchange Program. The exchange began in 1947, and is believed to be the oldest sister city relationship still in existence post-World War II, according to Janice Berger, who presided over Sunday’s program.

“It’s the students who are brave enough to fill out the application, have the consent of a parent … this is the link that is keeping this friendship alive and keeping it going,” Berger said.

Sunday’s program included comments from John Martin, the 2012-2013 Worthington exchange student to Crailsheim, and from Lars Opaczek, the current Crailsheim exchange student. In addition, Ron Sternke read a letter from his son, Jaron, about his ongoing experiences in Crailsheim.

Guest speakers were Mayor Alan and Janice Oberloh, who spoke of their trip to Crailsheim during Volksfest last September.

“The family connections and the friendship connections are unreal,” said the mayor. “I don’t think the majority of people realize the strength of the friendships that have been forged.”

Worthington and Crailsheim’s sister city relationship was established shortly after the end of World War II. The German city had nearly 70 percent of its structures destroyed during the war. Worthington took up collections to send to the community to aid the people in rebuilding their lives.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

(507) 376-7330