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Exchange students experience what area has to offer

Former Secretary of Agriculture, Samuel E. Hayes, Jr., took several trade missions to Mexico, including visits to Guanajuato, Mexico.
One result of those trips was a relationship between the University of Guanajuato and Penn State University.
With this newly formed relationship, the schools decided to try a student exchange program.
One student from Penn State is spending time in Mexico working on her internship while three senior food science majors from the University of Guanajuato College of Agriculture are visiting our area to learn about modern technology and production, quality control and food safety among other things.
While here, the students are staying with Hayes and his wife, Betty Lee. They will also spend time at the home of Fred and Cathy DelGrosso.
MIC. Manuel Collado, Dean at the University of Guanajuato Agriculture Institute, previously spoke with Hayes and wanted to arrange for three of his students to spend time studying in Pennsylvania.
The students he chose were selected according to their grades. They were also required to be able to speak some English.
“These are the top students,” said Hayes.
Jessica Flores is 21-years-old and lives in Salamanca. Her father, Alberto, is a high school teacher and her mother, Martha, is a housewife. She has three sisters, Danielle, 13, Valeria, 12 and Monica, 7.
Hilda Rivera is 21-years-old and lives in Irapuato. Her parents are both elementary school teachers. Her father, Javier, teaches sixth grade and her mother, Hilda, is currently an administrator. Her siblings include Perla, 19 and Dayana, 12.
Liliana Rivera is 21-years-old and also lives in Irapuato. Her father Rogelio is a chemical engineer and her mother, Virginia, is an accountant. She has a younger brother, Daniel, who is 17.
During their visit, the girls had many activities planned.
According to Jessica, her favorite part of the trip so far was seeing the laboratory at DelGrosso’s. She enjoyed seeing the process and the variety of products there.
Hilda also enjoyed the lab at DelGrosso’s and she especially loved the candy at Gardners and seeing the process of making it.
“We are amazed at the quality here in Pennsylvania,” Hilda said.
She said Pennsylvania is very good when it comes to safety from raw materials to the final product.
“We are very amazed because a lot of places lack in food safety,” she said.
Liliana was impressed with the lab as well. She said DelGrosso’s and Gardners both use many techniques that are not used in Mexico, including the digital machines at Gardners.
She said, “Although we don’t have the technology, we know the process but have never had the chance to use it.”
Liliana was also impressed by the emphasis placed on food safety and the Pennsylvania food safety standards.
“The machines are very easily switched to make different products,” said Jessica, enjoying the ease of transitions from one product line to another.
The girls also spoke of their courses in Mexico and their plans for the future.
All three of the girls would like to continue their education in the food science field, following their graduation in December. They are all interested in Penn State and are excited for this chance to study abroad and see the facilities here in Pennsylvania.
They also had the chance to meet with representatives from Penn State to discuss their future plans for attending school there in the future. They were able to learn about the food science curriculum at PSU as well as visit the facilities, the creamery and much more.
Jessica enjoys food chemistry, modern technologies in food science and food engineering. She hopes to be involved child nutrition after graduating, working with things like ice cream and chocolate.
Hilda likes both food nutrition and food engineering. She would like to be a food nutritionist one day.
Food nutrition, food preservation, food microbiology are favorites for Liliana. She also would like to work in the nutrition area in food therapy, which is the study of food as it relates to human health.
Following graduation from the University of Guanajuato in December, their studies in Pennsylvania could begin next year. Two more years of schooling will lead to a Master’s Degree and, if they choose to continue studying for a Doctorate, that would lead to three more years of schooling.
“When we knew about this opportunity, we wanted to come here to see the process and compare it to our process in Mexico,” said Liliana.
Now in the second week of their stay, the girls busy schedule continues as they enjoy many experiences before their return trip this weekend.
The girls were able to spend a week studying food processing at DelGrosso Foods and visit the Gardeners Candies production facility. This week the girls are spending time at Penn State and attending meetings on food science.
At DelGrosso’s, the girls were able to see all aspects of the process from the raw materials to the packaged commodity. They saw the arrival of raw material shipments, the equipment, quality control, package labeling, pH, temperatures, and everything in between.
“It was really an in depth experience,” said Hayes.
Not only did they visit the plant during the day, they also spent time on the night shift to ensure they were seeing each stage of food processing.
Also, the students met Danielle Peterman, of Tyrone, a food safety specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The girls said their first impression of Pennsylvania was a good one, although it is very different from their homes. They said it is very clean and Penn State is very large, like a city, and it is a very pretty campus.
University life in Guanajuato is much different according to the students. They were surprised to find the Penn State campus is located in one general area. Their university is spread out with different buildings in different areas for each major. The agricultural studies at the University of Guanajuato are held in a rural area just outside of Irapuato. There are no dormitories and the girls live at home and go to and from school using buses.
Other than differences with the schools, the girls also spoke of differences in the architecture, the landscape and the agriculture.
Principal crops in Guanajuato include strawberries, wheat, corn, cauliflower, broccoli and garlic. Many of these items are often exported to Pennsylvania during the winter because of Mexico’s longer growing season.
“We want to thank Dr. Hayes for this opportunity that he has provided,” said Hilda.
Liliana agreed, saying, “It was very nice of him, we really appreciate the opportunity.”
“These students represent the future of Mexico,” said Hayes. “These three food science students are very fortunate to see production at these two premier companies.
“I’m also very thankful to these companies. I appreciate Gardners and DelGrosso’s for allowing these students to participate and view their production and for providing this experience for them.”
Hayes said it was also special the students were able to work with the DelGrosso family and stay with Fred and Cathy because on one mission to Mexico, he was able to take Fred with him.
“So he has some understanding of how the U.S. and Mexico differ in food production,” Hayes said of DelGrosso.
Hayes was very pleased with the outcome of the exchange and hopes to continue in the future.
“These three young ladies and other like them will provide a good future for the Republic of Mexico. They would be outstanding no matter what country they’re in, no matter what country they study in,” said Hayes.