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By BECCA OWSLEY
ELIZABETHTOWN — In 1965, foreign exchange student Noris Figueroa from Guatemala spent her senior year at Elizabethtown High School.
Forty-three years later she has returned to visit friends she found through www.classmates.com. She not only has reconnected with them but has learned of a friend’s quest to help with water purification projects in her home country.
Figueroa now lives in Guatemala City and has a small public relations company.
Armed with her high school yearbook, she went online to find her 1965 classmates. When Bob Swope’s name came up, she remembered him and wrote to him on the Web site.
Swope actually had just returned from a training project for the Living Waters for the Word program before receiving the message. He planed on going to Guatemala with the First Presbyterian Church and Noon Rotary club to install water purification systems in some villages there.
A few days after returning from training Swope read an e-mail from Noris that said “greetings from Guatemala.”
She asked if he remembered her.
”Of course I remember Noris, she was quite a celebrity,” Swope said.
He informed her that not only did he remember who she was, but was headed to Guatemala.
The team could have gone anywhere but had fortuitously planned on going to Guatemala. When the time of the project arrived and the team landed Noris was there to welcome them at the gate.
“Of all the countries in Latin America, he is coming to Guatemala and I was thrilled to death,” Noris said.
After Swope’s visit and contact with old friends ,Figueroa decided to make a visit back to the place where she graduated and her second home.
She never lost touch with her original host family, the Pattersons, and had visited them for short time before but didn’t have time then to visit her friends.
This time around she not only got to visit with Swope and another good friend, Jackie Gerard, but also many other old friends from her high school days.
“All these wonderful memories come back again, we all feel like we are the same age,” Figueroa said. “I’ve been having just a wonderful time.”
Over 40-plus years Elizabethtown had changed so much she bareley recognized it when she returned.
Her favorite memory of coming to school in Elizabethtown was that there were boys at the school. She went to an all girls’ school in Guatemala. Everything was a big change for her. She admitted she was more interested in building relationships in school than studying.
“It marked my life,” Figueroa said.
When she returns to Guatemala, she hopes to help with the water purification project and keep in touch with the friends she made so many years ago.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.
BOX: On October 25 at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center there will be a benefit concert for Living Waters for the World featuring Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. A Guatemalan dinner will be served. The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the dinner and concert are $30 and tickets for the concert only are $20. Proceeds will benefit Living Waters for the World, a Guatemala Project Team of First Presbyterian Church and the Elizabethtown Noon Rotary Club. Antsy McClain’s concerts are part music and part comedy with some audience involvement. “I predict in five or ten years everyone’s going to know who Antsy McClain is,” event organizer Bob Swope said. For more information contact (270) 737-9164.