Georgia Rotary Student Program is fun for students, clubs

Published 8:34 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One of the neatest programs sponsored by Georgia’s Rotary clubs is the “Georgia Rotary Student Program.” This program is unique to the state and has been in effect since 1946.

Through the program, Georgia Rotary Clubs sponsor students recommended by a Rotary Club in that student’s home nation. The students then become adopted members of a Georgia “host family,” but live on-campus at the school they attend.

Tuesday, our local GRSP student said her heartfelt goodbye to her friends in Georgia. Maria Lamprecht, who has been sponsored by Bainbridge’s Rotary Club, as well as the clubs in Pelham and Camilla, is from Essen, Germany, and has been attending school at Valdosta State University.

This was the second time that Maria has spoken to the local club — she also talked at the Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, meeting. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it was a delight to hear Maria speak, because it was apparent just how much she really did enjoy her time in south Georgia.
Maria’s English is impeccable and it was impressive how she has also picked up some Southern slang along the way. Although she said that German students take English in elementary school, she jokingly admitted, “But it’s not one of the classes we really take seriously.”

In fact, just about everything that Maria told the club was light-hearted and said with a smile. She admitted loving VSU’s campus beauty and even remarked that “The University of Georgia Rotary students” were even jealous of how pretty it was. She said that she loved going to VSU football games, because European football (or what we’d call soccer) is “so boring.”

Maria told the club that it was always her childhood dream to go see Walt Disney World, and that dream came true when Dean and Marlene Free took her and several of her friends down there. Of course, Maria joked that even international girls still fit some American female stereotypes — she noted that they packed a lot of luggage and did even more shopping.

Maria’s slide show included photos of her goofing around with her friends and her host families, including the local host family of Bo and Ginger Jones and their children. In one photo, she had a Rotary club member — who worked as a policeman — in another town pretend to “arrest her,” complete with handcuffs and a shot of her leaning against a police car.

“I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to show that one to my mom,” Maria said, with a laugh (in case you missed it, laughter was an important part of her presentation).

Maria is truly an outstanding young lady and I have no doubt that she will keep her promise to come and visit the U.S. again some day. She told the club that she has to go home to Germany early in order to begin applying for universities there. While she was sad to leave, I know that our local Rotary members were just as sad to see her go, too.

The GRSP program is really an impressive campaign because it not only gives foreign students a chance to experience American life, but it also gives us the chance to interact with people from other countries. It really shows that even though we may be miles apart, we still have a lot in common — we all love to have fun, we all love to make friendships, and we even all love to make goofy faces in candid photographs.

I am truly proud to be a Rotary member and to have had my club involved in such a worthwhile program.

Justin Schuver is the managing editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can reach him at justin.schuver@thepostsearchlight.com.