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Participants in the 2002 St. Augustine/Aviles Student Exchange Program are joined by chaperones and St. Augustine City Commissioners as they gather on the spot where Spanish Explorer Pedro Menendez landed
on September, 8, 1565.

Spanish Students Arrive from Founder's Hometown

Four hundred thirty-six years, ten months and fifteen days after Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles stepped from his long boat and onto the shores of Florida, placed a Spanish flag in the sand and founded a new city he named St. Augustine, a dozen high school students from the Spanish explorer’s hometown stood in the very same spot as they began their own exploration of the New World.

The high school students from Aviles, Spain had arrived in the city the night before to begin the second half of the 2002 St. Augustine/Aviles Student Exchange Program. Their counterparts, a dozen students from St. Augustine area high schools, had just returned from their visit to Aviles.

The two groups along with their chaperones gathered at the site of the Mission Nombre de Dios on Tuesday, July 23 to be welcomed by St. Augustine’s Mayor, Mark Alexander and City Commissioners Bill Lennon and Raymond Connor. This site was significant for the initial meeting because it is the exact spot where Menendez landed on September 8, 1565. In 1965, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding, the Catholic Church erected a 200 foot stainless steel cross to mark the landing site and the site of the city’s first Mass.

After hearing words of welcome, pausing for a group photo, the students set off on a whirl-wind schedule of activities that are centered on environmental studies. Their two week stay includes behind the scenes tours at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, Marineland of Florida, and Whitney Laboratory which is a research institute of the University of Florida, a waste water treatment facility and an emergency operations center.

In addition the students will visit the Florida interior for a day of canoeing on Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest, walk the streets of St. Augustine with professional historians as guides, and participate in an archeological dig with the City of St. Augustine’s staff archeologist, Carl Hailbirt.

This is the second year for the exchange program which is sponsored by the St. Augustine Sister Cities Association and funding by generous donations from individuals, corporations and civic clubs.

See a photo of the Students from St. Augustine and read their impressions of Aviles.


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