For more than 20 years, the language clubs at West Valley High School have opened their doors to foreign exchange students from around the area.
“It’s my favorite event of the year,” said Mikayla Scully, a senior at West Valley.
Last Thursday, more than 100 students arrived at West Valley dressed in their finest party clothes. Many of the boys wore ties, and the girls were in dresses with sequins and flowing skirts.
Unlike most high school dances, the evening started off with ice breakers. Students introduced themselves to each other and were told to talk about their favorite winter sport.
The international students – representing 19 countries – were asked to line up at the microphone to introduce themselves and say a greeting in their own language.
Emil Rasmussen, 16, is from Denmark and is attending Medical Lake High School this year. He said he really likes the area and is enjoying his time here.
Noa Lacombe is from France and attending Central Valley High School. Laura Canut is from Spain and goes to school in Post Falls.
They all came to the dance with the hopes of meeting new people.
French teacher Dina Jones said the mixer has been a West Valley tradition since before she arrived at the school 18 years ago. The Spanish and French clubs work together in fundraising, making appetizers and decorating the commons with signs that say “welcome” in 15 different languages.
“We want them to feel welcome at West Valley,” Spanish teacher Margarita Plascencia said.
Colton Long, a junior at West Valley, said he liked seeing how similar everyone is.
The students said they sent out invitations to international students at high schools in Spokane and Kootenai counties.
Scully said she enjoys making friends from all over the world. She is still in contact with many former foreign exchange students who not only attended West Valley, but came to the mixers over the years.
“You gain a respect for people of other cultures,” Scully said.