Worthington selects next student ambassador in exchange program with Crailsheim, Germany
Cassandra Casian will leave this summer for her year-long experience in Crailsheim.
WORTHINGTON — Cassandra Casian, a Worthington High School freshman, will be the city’s next ambassador to Crailsheim, Germany. As her name was announced early Sunday afternoon at the annual banquet of Worthington-Crailsheim International, she beamed a huge smile and was filled with both nervousness and excitement.
“I’m just very thankful for being chosen,” she said after being introduced.
Casian and fellow freshman Anthony Morris had each vied to be the city’s next representative to take part in the year-long student exchange program. Newly installed Worthington-Crailsheim International President Dominic Burns, who was the student ambassador to Crailsheim in 2016-2017, encouraged Morris to apply again next year. He said both were strong, talented candidates, and choosing just one individual was difficult.
Casian, 15, is the daughter of Carolina Rodriguez and Eduardo Casian, and has one brother, Edward Rodriguez Casian, 13. She is fluent in English and Spanish, and has taken German language classes at WHS since the start of her freshman year.
While she can speak and read some German, she said some of the pronunciations are difficult, but she’s excited to learn more of the language.
Casian learned of the student exchange program as a seventh grader from teacher Scott Burns, and when Dominic Burns and Anica Bös, the current Crailsheim student representative, talked to students in German classes in January, she was eager to apply for the program.
“I really hope to experience many different cultures and to see many different countries around Europe — to see their lifestyles and how they do their everyday life and their school systems,” Casian said. “I want to learn a lot of different languages too.”
A lover of art and music, Casian said she’s looking forward to seeing the landscapes, attending festivals and experiencing “a whole other world — to somewhere you’ve never been in your entire life and to adapt to the culture and traditions.”
Casian already has her passport, thanks to past trips to Mexico, Cancun and Guatemala, and will leave for Germany in late July or early August.
Casian’s mom attends Southwest Minnesota State University, and her dad attends Minnesota West Community & Technical College, where they are both studying computer coding. Her mom will earn her bachelor’s degree within the next year, while her dad has more years of schooling remaining. He also works at HyLife in Windom. As for Casian, she’s currently interested in a career involving art — drawing and 2-D illustrations — or in music.
The Worthington-Crailsheim partnership is now in its 76th year, having forged a friendship at the end of World War II, when the people of Worthington banded together to send clothing and supplies to the war-ravaged city in southern Germany. That friendship has withstood the test of time, and the student exchange program has been going strong since 1956.
Burns said that both communities elected new presidents of the exchange program this year. Crailsheim’s leader is Axel Huss, who was Crailsheim’s student representative to Worthington in 1986-87.
“To give back is such an amazing opportunity, I think,” said Burns, who also spoke of his visit “home” last September.
“It’s a place that adopts you, takes you in, and treats you as one of their own,” he said of Crailsheim, noting that the partnership is “community adopting community at a time when it’s most needed.”
“This changed me — watch it change you,” he added.
Bös, half-way through her year in Worthington as Crailsheim’s student ambassador, said it was one year ago that she had hoped to be selected for the exchange. Now, she still can’t believe she’s here.
“During my year, I got involved in a lot of new things,” Bös shared, noting her joining the WHS tennis and hockey teams — both new experiences — and has traveled with her host families to Vikings games, the Mall of America and spent a week in Wisconsin, with a trip now planned to Florida.
“Through this exchange year I have found a second home,” she said. “I can’t imagine leaving this city in six months. I can’t imagine having to leave every single person who made my exchange year unforgettable.”
Nataly Najera Murillo, Worthington’s current representative to Crailsheim, wrote in her speech that was read by Scott Burns, that she has met so many amazing people in Crailsheim and has had a great time.
Like Bös, she has had many new experiences, from ice skating and fencing to playing basketball, taking dance and trying shooting sports.
“Besides improving my German language skills, I have learned a lot about the culture in Germany,” Murillo wrote. “I have tried many traditional German dishes including my favorites: schnitzel, flammkuchen and käsespätzle, as well as Russian and Bosnian foods.”
She has also traveled to several German cities, as well as Italy, Austria and France.
While Murillo said her year away from family and friends hasn’t been easy, she is glad she had the courage to experience the exchange program.
“It takes a lot of courage as a young person to apply and go through the interview process,” she shared. “As my mom said, ‘It’s not like you’re going to be around the corner, you’re going to go to the other side of the world.’”