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Sternke selected for Crailsheim program

Jaron Sternke (center) is pictured with his mother, Sheryl and father Ronald following Sunday's Crailsheim Annual Banquet. Jaron was selected as the exchange student for the 2013-14 year. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Jaron Sternke heard about the Crailsheim exchange program and became curious.

That curiosity led him to be selected as the 2013-14 exchange student to the German city.

"I had heard about the experience from past exchange students and I became curious," said Sternke, who is a sophomore at Worthington High School. "I started attending the meetings and learning more about it and my interest became more and more. I talked to some of the past exchange students and they told me it's a life-changing experience. I wanted to have one of those and have that experience."

Sternke was announced at the annual banquet Sunday at the First Lutheran Church.

Although he was the only applicant, he was "excited and relieved" when he was informed he would be the exchange student.

While Sternke hasn't been out of the country before, he has been taking German classes at WHS.

"I want to ski in the Alps," he said. "And I was hoping to play rugby. I'm a football player over here and I really want to try rugby over there."

He will leave in late July and be in Germany for a calendar year. Sternke said he was nervous about, " The different international travel and the customs because I've never done that before. I've been on planes by myself and stuff like that, but I've never done it internationally."

But, he added, he is most excited about "meeting everybody and going to school and having that experience."

Sunday's banquet featured a German meal, but other than that, Sternke hasn't had much German cuisine.

"I like sauerkraut," he said. "A lot of foods originated in Germany, but I haven't had specifically German food before."

The banquet began with Crailsheim Committee President Janice Berger giving background on the program.

"The sister-city relationship between Worthington, Minn. and Crailsheim, Germany began as a post-World War II relief efforts," she said. "Crailsheim was 70 percent destroyed by the war. Crailsheim was chosen at that time because it was close in size and character of Worthington."

The first German exchange student came in 1948 to attend Worthington Junior College. In 1956, two Worthington students went to Crailsheim. In 1964-65, the program became what it is today.

"That's a pretty amazing relationship we have," Berger said.

Reading a letter on behalf of her daughter, Kayli -- who was an exchange student previously -- Jolene Kuhl told Sternke "Try everything at least once because you never know what the experience will bring."

Gordon and Jane Moore were the guest speakers for the event, and talked about their 2011 trip to Crailsheim with the city band.

"You will be treated like royalty," Jane said, addressing Sternke.

Talking about the relationship, Gordon said, "It's even better than you can imagine it."

Lars Opaczek was announced as the German exchange student who will be coming to Worthington for this year.

As Sternke was recognized, the lasting message was about the experience he will have.

"You are going to be embarking on an experience that I'm sure will be life-changing," Gordon Moore said.

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Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.