MENASHA — The Global Outreach Catholic Exchange Program is marking two milestones this school year. The 25-member 2014/2015 class is the 25th in program history. In addition to the anniversary, a member of the class, Veronika Brabcová of the Czech Republic, is the first second-generation Global Outreach student. Blanka Brabcová, Veronika’s mother, was an exchange student in the program 22 years ago.
“Over the years, we have met Veronika’s mother many times when we’ve been in the Czech Republic,” explained Fr. Larry Seidl, spiritual director for Global Outreach. “Slowly, we’ve seen her children and the children of some of our other alumni grow. Now, Veronika is the first one to be old enough to apply for the program and be accepted.”
Brabcová, 17, almost passed on the opportunity to spend her junior year of high school in the U.S. Her mother’s experience influenced her decision.
“I knew about the program since I was little,” she said. “I never thought about it because I was more into staying in Europe and trying another exchange program. My mom showed me her photo album with her old pictures. I look like her. I thought, ‘This is me.’ I’ve met a lot of her friends from all around the world. They came to visit us and we visited them. It is really cool that she has long-term friendships around the world, so I started thinking about it a year ago.”
Brabcová, who is from Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, added that it was difficult leaving family and friends, but she is excited to experience America. She was previously in the country a few years ago during a visit with her mother.
Brabcová is attending St. Mary’s Springs Academy in Fond du Lac, one of two new Global Outreach host schools. Pacelli High School in Stevens Point is the other.
Host schools in the Green Bay Diocese are St. Francis Xavier High School, Appleton; Roncalli High School, Manitowoc; Notre Dame Academy, Green Bay; and St. Mary Central High School, Neenah.
McDonnell High School, Chippewa Falls; Newman High School, Wausau; Catholic Memorial, Waukesha; Columbus High School, Marshfield; and three Catholic high schools in Nebraska are also part of the program.
Antalóczy Levente, a student from Hungary, is also attending St. Mary Springs. Brabcová, said the Catholic element of Global Outreach is important to her. She could not be open about her faith while attending primary school in Brno.
“I then attended Bishop’s High School (Brno) where 25 of 30 people were Christian or Catholic,” she explained. “It was cool. I didn’t have to hide who I am. I like to go to Mass on Sunday mornings. It means so much to me that this is a Catholic program.”
Brabcová enjoys sports, especially tennis, which she has played for 10 years. Academically, she likes studying languages, including German and Latin. She has an interest in learning Spanish.
“I’m also interested in art,” she said. “It’s not just about painting. I like all forms of art. I think it helps you to express yourself. I would like to meet some people who are interested in art.
“It doesn’t matter where you get involved, but just get involved,” she added. “Be active.”
Another first for Global Outreach is students from Poland. Four are in this year’s class, including Aleksander Olszowski, who is attending St. Francis Xavier, and Cezary Kruszewski of Lourdes Academy. Slovakia and Lithuania are also represented in addition to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Latvia is the sixth Global Outreach country, but there are no Latvian students in this year’s class, which gathered for a weeklong retreat at Mount Tabor Center prior to attending their respective high schools.
“The students come together and develop friendships,” said Fr. Seidl, pastor at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, Neenah. “You look around and see the different nationalities sitting together. They all won’t be together again until our mid-year gathering.”
“I was afraid that I would just have to talk to Czech people,” said Brabcová about the retreat. “I’ve made friends with Hungarian students and met people from the other countries. I liked that we had Mass every day.”
When Blanka was a Global Outreach student, there were no host parents. Students lived at Mount Tabor, formally known as the La Salle Center.
“It’s unbelievable that this is really happening,” said Veronika. “I think about how my mom was here.”
For more information about Global Outreach, visit www.globaloutreachprogram.com.