EXETER — For 18-year-old Angelica Dore, 2017-18 is turning out to be a year of first-time experiences:
Studying anatomy at the high-school level and playing on a basketball team.
Sampling new foods, such as peanut butter paired with jelly.
Watching with wonder as grown-ups, not just children, wear costumes for Halloween.
“I do recommend it,” the young woman from Italy said, explaining she’s enjoying her year as an exchange student at Wyoming Area High School and would like to see others take advantage of similar opportunities.
Actually, there’s no shortage of honor students from Europe and Asia who are fluent in English and eager to spend a year in the United States.
“We have 380 students on a list; I need 380 families,” said Bonnie Witkosky, who arranged for Dore’s year-long stay with host parents Frank and Lori Nocito, of Exeter, through the Education First High School Exchange Year program.
With so many available students, Witkosky said, a host family often can be matched with an exchange student from a country in which they have an interest.
The Nocitos requested a student from Italy, Lori Nocito said, and they’re glad Dore can help them expand their knowledge of the Italian language.
“I do my happy dance whenever I say something correctly,” Nocito said, remembering how Dore confirmed that cintura di sicurezza is Italian for “seat belt.”
“This is a phenomenal host family and a very good match,” Witkosky said, smiling at Nicoto and Dore as they reminisced about some of the experiences that have helped them bond — from kayaking at Frances Slocum State Park to encouraging each other through a high-ropes course to cooking vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner together.
“She never tasted a sweet potato before,” Nocito said.
Peanut butter with jelly has also been a novel taste for Dore, who explained that Nutella chocolate/hazelnut spread is more common in Italy.
With a career goal of becoming a surgeon, Dore is grateful for the chance to take an anatomy course at Wyoming Area High School. She also likes having Saturdays off — back home, students attend school on Saturdays but are dismissed from classes earlier each afternoon.
When she returns to Italy, Dore won’t have to repeat a year of study, Witkosky said, because Italy accepts diplomas from American high schools, as does Spain.
Other countries from which Education First students hail — Austria, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Thailand — expect the students to make up the year at home, Witkosky said.
The Education First program has placed 2,600 students in the United States this year, Witkosky said, adding she has made arrangements for students from Sweden, Thailand, Germany, Denmark and Italy to attend Crestwood, Pleasant Valley, Hazleton Area, Dallas and Wyoming Area high schools.
Hosting a student “is something Frank and I always wanted to do,” said Lori Nocito, who is executive director of Leadership Wilkes-Barre while her husband, Frank Nocito, is an attorney.
Dore, for her part, has longed to experience life in another country since she was 13, when an older friend told her about her time as an exchange student in Nebraska.
“She goes back to visit her host family every year,” Dore said.
“It’s like they’re family for life,” Witkosky said.
Witkosky urges anyone interested in hosting a student to contact her.
“I believe what we do helps students achieve their dream,” she said, “and the cultural exchange helps us all to understand each other.”