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Former Rotary exchange student makes return trip to Tyrone after 30 years

The Tyrone Area High School class of 1978 recently held their 30 year reunion at the Elk’s Park in Bald Eagle.
The event saw many former Tyrone High classmates coming out to reminisce and catch up with old friends.
Many still reside in the Tyrone area, while others traveled from all over the state and the country.
One special guest made the journey all the way from Mexico.
Maria Teresa “Mayte” Sanchez de Gomez visited Tyrone in 1977-78 as a Rotary exchange student from Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico, graduating with the class of 1978.
Originally a Native American settlement, Tehuacán is the second largest city in the Mexican state of Puebla. In 2005, the population in the city and its surrounding municipality was 260,923.
During her stay in Tyrone 30 years ago, Mayte stayed with different families, including Irvin and Eunice Fink and their children Irvin Jr. and Ellen.
Ellen also participated in the Rotary Exchange Program, spending her junior year near Guatamala, Mexico in 1976-77.
Besides reconnecting with her former classmates and host families, Mayte had a busy schedule while staying in Tyrone.
She stopped by the Rotary meeting to speak to members. There she also met the current Tyrone exchange student, Elsa Balvanera, a 10th grader, who is also from Mayte’s hometown of Tehuacan.
Irvin Jr., who is now a fourth grade teacher at Tyrone Elementary School, invited Mayte to speak in his class.
Wearing a traditional Mexican poncho, Mayte spoke to the class about life in Mexico – what they eat, games they play and what school is like. She also answered the many questions students had about her country.
The kids were curious about the type of music and instruments that are common in Mexico, as well as what type of sports people play.
They also asked about games, dolls, houses and dance classes, among other things.
Mayte answered each question, explaining a popular instrument in Mexico is the guitar. She said soccer is a very popular sport but people also play basketball and volleyball. Common games one might see kids playing include checkers, cards, tag and hopscotch – many games familiar to the children.
Some differences Mayte talked about were the dolls Mexican children played with. She described them as being made completely of material, filled with cotton. Also, she said dance classes are a little different from what students participate in here. While some are similar like jazz and ballet, people also enjoy dances such as Flamenco. She also told the children about the colorful costumes worn by Mexican dancers.
Mayte told the class they are very fortunate to have so many opportunities in public school like sport teams, music classes and other extracurricular activities.
After speaking with the fourth graders, the class gathered together with Mayte and their teacher, Mr. Fink, for a special group photo.
During her last day in Tyrone, as she prepared for her return trip home, Mayte said she enjoyed staying here in Tyrone.
“I had a great experience,” she said of her days participating in the Rotary Exchange Program, “It changed my life.”
She continued saying, “I would invite anyone who would like to do it (exchange program) to go ahead, you won’t regret it.”