LAURINBURG — Oban High School exchange students from Scotland arrived in Laurinburg on Wednesday by train — just in time for an all-American cookout Thursday evening and a weekend filled with Scottish activities.
Traveling from Scotland, the students came to Washington, D.C., by plane and stayed a few days to visit the museums and historical buildings. They then took Amtrak from D.C. to Fayetteville — a six-hour ride thgrough the countryside.
Thursday was a day of settling in for the students and their advisors before being treated to a good, old-fashioned southern cookout. The gathering took place at the house of James and Donna McQueen, who hosted the 12 students, chaperones and local families. Local and visiting students were reacquainted during the barbecue — re-establishing friendships first begun during the summer when the Scotland High students traveled to Oban on the first leg of the annual exchange program.
The Laurinburg-Oban Sisters City Association program is in its 26th year, where local families host the exchange students in October and, in June, Scotland High students fly to Scotland.
“We extended the number from 10 to 12 students because the program has become so popular,” said Beacham McDougald, an organizer of the program.
He says students who apply and are chosen are not turned away if they do not have finances. Over the past five years, a Sunburnt Boys and Girls fundraising event raised more than $8,000 in scholarships for the program.
This first weekend in the states is “Family Weekend” for the students, and the host families will be taking the exchange students to different places of their choice.
On Saturday, some will go to the Highland Games at the John Blue House grounds, while other families may take them to an N.C. State football game. Next weekend, they plan to go to the North Carolina State Fair and/or the beach. On Tuesday, the visiting students will be guests of the Laurinburg Rotary Club.
McDougald talks proudly of the program, saying that it builds connections for a lifetime.
“Some friendships are more than 20 years old just because of this program — the people from Laurinburg go to vacation in Scotland and then their friends come here to vacation,” said McDougald. “It is a unique binding of two cities.”
Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-3169 or [email protected]