Two local Newtownabbey pupils, who won places on the Council run Sister Cities Student Exchange Programme, have recently returned from a three week visit to the USA.
Through the programme, Mark Hetherington from Belfast High School and Peter Bowden from Ballyclare High School, had an unforgettable time in Gilbert Arizona developing an understanding of a different culture and people through a family living experience.
The Newtownabbey students were each matched with a student partner in the USA with whom they will spend the duration of the programme. Sarah Serrano and Jezzica Smith from the Gilbert Exchange Committee are now spending time with their host families in Newtownabbey.
So far, the American visitors have had a variety of day trips including helping out at the Donkey Sanctuary in Templepatrick through Volunteer Now. Ballyclare MLA, Alderman Paul Girvan also took them on a tour of the Parliamernt Buildings at Stormont before they attended a BBQ at Sentry Hill to welcome them to the Borough.
Speaking at the welcome event, the Mayor Alderman Fraser Agnew commented:
“This programme is an amazing opportunity for Newtownabbey and Gilbert students to share their culture, visit new and exciting places and hopefully make lifelong friendships. The programme gives our young people a fantastic opportunity for personal development through participation in volunteering activities in conjunction with Volunteer Now.”
For more information on this exciting programme and to see what Mark and Peter got up to on their trip stateside, read their ‘Wish you Were Here’ travel blog at
If you are aged 16-17, live in Newtownabbey and would like to be considered for the 2014 Student Exchange programme, please contact Carol Shane on 028 9034 0073 or emailfor more information.