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SV student to study abroad with help from Rotary Club

Cranberry Journal
Lauren Agnello, a Seneca Valley student, and R. Patrick Francis, the Rotary Club president, share a moment together to celebrate. Agnello has been selected by the Rotary to study abroad in Europe. Submitted

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By Dona S. Dreeland
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

When Lauren Agnello flies off to Europe this summer, she'll be leaving lots behind — family, friends, her Seneca Valley High School routines and favorite Cranberry destinations.

And within weeks of landing, opportunities to speak English also will take flight.

At nearly 15, Agnello will be taking part in the Rotary Club's Youth Exchange Program, which sends students off to foreign countries for an entire year to learn about new cultures — and themselves. Through language immersion, they'll explore the sights, sounds and ideas of their new homes.

The Rotary Club of Cranberry-Sunrise was Agnello's first sponsor.

The teen chose six countries where she would like to spend her time: Spain, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Hungary, Turkey and Germany. Her preference would be Spain, but she happily would settle for any of the places.

“I've studied Spanish since the seventh grade,” she said. “I love the language and always found the culture interesting.”

As she researched the countries where she might live, she made discoveries: Turkey — “The coolest thing is it's the gateway from the East to the West, so it combines both cultures.”

Czech Republic — is one of Central Europe's hot spots with its culture and music. Yet it doesn't matter if she stays in a very rural area or a packed city.

“Everywhere I go, I have a great experience,” she said.

R. Patrick Francis, the Rotary Club's president and a Cranberry Township resident, finds this program to be a fantastic opportunity for students. Francis met the girl and her parents, Joe Agnello and Karen Kane, for the first interview in September. With the local club's recommendation, she then moved on to the district competition.

Ultimately, Agnello was among six who were selected for the program. In turn, six foreign exchange students will be making their way to the US.

“She's something else,” he said of the teen, who is following in her sister, Rachael's, footsteps.

Rachael traveled to Norway while sponsored by the Rotary in 2009.

“Rachael inspired me,” said the younger sibling.

“(The trip) changed her for the better. She returned more well rounded and more culturally aware.”

She also shared a significant lesson: “People are more alike than different. Differences should be respected and honored.”

The Rotarian Foundation helps to fund these trips abroad. Club members around the world contribute to the foundation. Some have even opened up their homes to young visitors.

There are more than 33,000 clubs worldwide in more than 200 countries. The Cranberry-Sunrise Club is 41 members strong.

Since its founding in Chicago in 1905, the Rotary Club's focus has been on serving others through educational and humanitarian efforts. The club's motto is “Service above Self.” The Youth Exchange is just one of its many programs that extend the reach of friendship and understanding across borders.

During each students' stay abroad, they are to respect the house rules, attend classes, learn as much about the culture and language as they can, be involved in family life, attend Rotary meetings and report back to their sponsoring club.

“Those selected are not average students, but already involved in the community,” said Francis, a six-year Rotary member.

“They're active in schools, the community, and all walks of life.”

For more information on the club, write to Rotary Club of Cranberry Township – Sunrise, P. O. Box 1583, Cranberry Township, PA 16066; email the club president at or visit

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353

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