Honduran exchange student excels at Saint Martin Episcopal thanks to local support

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METAIRIE, LA. (NEW ORLEANS) - Eighteen-year-old Jose Contreras left his home in Tela, Honduras, so he could go to school at Saint Martin Episcopal School this year.

The school reduced its tuition and two local churches (Saint Augustine and Holy Spirit) held fundraisers and found a host family, giving him a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“The mission of this program is really the 'interconnectedness', that we’re trying to achieve for our students, and that understanding of other cultures," said Merry Sorrells, the head of Saint Martin Episcopal School.

So how’s he doing after a few months?

“I haven’t gotten homesick yet, probably because people are making it really amazing here," Contreras said. "I thought it was going to be a big challenge, adjusting to the new culture, meeting new people, making friends. I thought it was going to be hard. But since I came here, the people have been extremely welcoming, all of them have received me with a huge smile."

But everything hasn’t been easy.

“Every day is a challenge for international students, the language, the classes," he said. "It’s a very prestigious school, and you need to work hard, and that’s what I love about this school, they make you put all your effort. You need sacrifice to achieve your goals."

He says this experience has been life-changing.

“This opportunity means a lot to us," he said. "It’s a way to improve ourselves, it’s a way to achieve something we never thought we could achieve. To the people who have given me their trust, I promise not to disappoint them. I am going to try achieve as many goals as I can."

And since Jose has improved his English and his test scores, now he’s applying for colleges in the United States.

“I’m even thinking about staying in New Orleans," he said. "I am thinking about Loyoyla, UNO. I feel like home.”