At three p.m. on a Monday, Lucas Roos ’21 stood in the back of the Mount Vernon High School (MVHS) library, waiting to present about his home country of Brazil. The 22 MVHS students who had gathered before him were eager to hear from someone born in another country — something that doesn’t happen often in rural Ohio.
Roos’ visit was part of a program run by Stacy Haught, an administrative assistant for the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) and the Office for Community Partnerships. Through the program, Knox County Meets the World, Haught and others from the CGE hope to promote cross-cultural understanding by connecting Kenyon’s international students with the surrounding region.
The Director of the CGE, Marne Ausec, founded the program a few years ago after she received a grant from the Rural Life Center at Kenyon. In addition to partnering with MVHS, the program has also brought international students to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic school in Mount Vernon. Earlier this month, Xiaoxuan Hu ’20 of China met with five Girl Scouts in Hoehn-Saric House to teach them how to make dumplings, after which they got a “meet the world” badge.
When MVHS history teacher Rob Fetters heard about the program from Ausec a year ago, he knew he wanted to bring it to his school.
“It’s really important that your students have a greater understanding of the world,” he said.
Roos was the second Kenyon student to present at MVHS after Brandon Arlow ’21 of South Africa presented earlier this month. On the ride there, he was a bit nervous, in part because he knew that central Ohio has more conservative values than he was used to at home, especially in terms of sexuality.
“In third grade, I remember my teacher took a broom from the door and put a condom on it,” he said.
He wanted to bring the topic up but wasn’t sure how much he should say. He expressed his concern to Fetters when he arrived, and Fetters told him to just be mindful that there would be some young students in his audience, to which Roos replied, “I don’t know what that means.” From his experience, by age 14 one would already know a lot about sex.
Despite Roos’ initial worries, the presentation went smoothly. The computer and projector took several minutes to start up, so in that time, he took some questions. One student asked him what he did in his free time in Brazil. He replied that he played soccer and then added, “But I also partied a lot, because people in Brazil love to party.” He described a party culture that typically stretches from Thursday night through Sunday.
Upon hearing this, a first-year MVHS student in the audience behind me muttered under his breath, “Sounds lit.”
Roos went on to talk about the geography of Brazil, the school system and the differences between Brazilian and American culture. At one point, he described an intense focus on beauty, especially in his state of Rio Grande do Sul. Five out of seven of his female classmates growing up became models, and Gisele Bündchen, a Brazilian supermodel, is friends with his mother.
Though many students did eventually have to leave for sports practices, Fetters observed that they seemed reluctant to go. Haught, too, was excited about the student turnout and participation. “I noticed that they chose to engage with him quite often,” she said.
Reflecting on it afterwards, Roos said that he was happy with the presentation but wished he addressed the topic of partying more. He hoped his audience took home its costs as well as its benefits. “I think the things that engaged them the most were the things they could relate to,” he said.