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Spanish dinner, dance benefits Leland & Gray’s cultural exchange program

TOWNSHEND—This February, 14 Leland & Gray Union High School students and two teachers will spend 13 days in Spain, traveling some of the time, getting to know the culture and historic sites.

But the highlight of the trip will be when the students settle into Monachil, a small village outside of Granada, in southern Spain, where they will live with families and attend the local high school.

For Jeryl Julian Cissé, the group leader and LGUHS Spanish teacher, this will be the ninth trip in continuing a cross-cultural exchange started in 1999, first as a teacher at Bellows Falls High School, and now at Leland & Gray.

In a news release, she says that, over the years, the L&G students have made many long-lasting relationships, first as guests of the Spanish families, and then as hosts when the Spanish teens come to Vermont and stay with the L&G families.

The trips take place on alternating years; last April, L&G families hosted nine teens from Monachil. Although there are some language barriers at first, depending on both groups’ levels of English and Spanish, Julian Cissé says “the laughing, caring, playing games, dancing, and eating know no boundaries.”

The journey will start in Barcelona, and continue on to Madrid, Segovia, Cordoba, Granada, and finally land the students in Monachil for their homestay experiences. The high school in Monachil, Instituto de Los Cahorros, has arranged a school excursion to a prehistoric site in the mountains surrounding the village.

The L&G students will give presentations about teen life at Leland & Gray, as well as Vermont and the U.S. Upon returning to Townshend, the students will give a presentation to the whole student body, as well as visit community organizations to share their experiences.

To help fund the trip, a few fundraising activities are taking place.

There will be a bottle drive on Jan. 5 at Leland and Gray, with a drop-off collection site in the front driveway of the school from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You may leave your redeemable bottles and cans that date, or you may take your redeemable items to the Putney Road Redemption Center in Brattleboro, asking that your deposit money be credited to the L&G Spain Trip account.

On Jan. 12, there will be a Spanish Dinner and Dance, at Leland & Gray’s Dutton Gymnasium, from 6 to 10 p.m. Authentic Spanish foods and desserts will be served, along with beverages, accompanied by live music.

Around 7 p.m., the dance will start, with a variety of Spanish and American dance tunes, live and recorded. There will also be a silent auction with great prizes. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults, and a maximum family cost of $25. The dance only is $5.

The group is also holding a month-long raffle for January, with a ticket drawn every day for great prizes, including four massages, five gift certificates to local restaurants, many hand-crafted items, homemade pies and fudge, an autographed Archer Mayor book, maple syrup, and more.

Also, each daily winning ticket gets put back in for draws for the rest of the month. Calendars are $10 for one or $20 for three tickets. Contact Jeryl Julian Cissé at, if you want to buy a calendar, or if you have any questions about the trip or any of the fundraising activities.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #492 (Wednesday, January 9, 2019).

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