Latin Sensation Hits Payson High

Exchange student from Brazil will spend year here


Move over J-Lo, there's a new Latin sensation in town and his name is "G-Baby!"

That's the nickname bestowed on the foreign exchange student from Brazil, Gabriel Martins Borges Ferreira Batista, by the female contingent of Payson High School.


Gabriel Martins Borges Ferreira Batista

Although he only arrived in Payson from his hometown of Aracatuba a week ago, Batista has already made an impression, at least among the younger female crowd in town.

Batista said he considers Aracatuba to be a small town with 300,000 residents, where he lives with his father, Jose, his mother, Guiomar, his brother, Rodrigo, 24, and sister, Marianna, 21.

Batista said Payson is quite a bit different from his hometown in many respects.

One of the differences he noticed right away was the climate and vegetation in Arizona.

"We don't have cactus in Brazil, it is very different here than from my country," he said, "the temperature, the town, the people, it is all very different, but I like it."

One of the biggest challenges Batista said he is struggling with is language barriers.

He is still working at mastering English. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, he said. It's his most difficult subject in school because he hasn't had any formal education in English.

His favorite subject is mathematics, and his favorite class so far at the high school is algebra. The twinkle in his eye when asked about girlfriends though, suggests other interests, as well.

Despite the differences in cultures and changes in academia he has had to adjust to, he is looking forward to learning about Payson and the United States, he said.

Batista is excited to experience snow for the first time. He said it never snows in Aracatuba, and he is looking forward to seeing just what it is like to have a snowball fight or build a snowman.

Batista said he considers it a real honor to have a sponsor bring him to the U.S., and to come to Payson and live with Rotary Club member Dan Hill's family.

The Rotary Club of Payson is sponsoring Batista while he is in Payson, and the Hills are the first host family Batista will be staying with.

Hill said his family is not the only one Batista will be staying with in town. The goal of the exchange program is to have him stay with at least two other families before he returns to Brazil.

The way the program works, Hill said, is to have Batista stay with more than just one family so he can experience more of the culture and diversity Payson has to offer, than if he stayed in the same home the entire year.

Batista has an education visa, allowing him to attend the entire school year in Payson. After 365 days though, Hill is required to return to Brazil.

In the meantime, 18-year-old Batista, a senior at PHS, has already joined the boy's high school soccer team.

Batista said soccer, or futbol as it is called in Brazil, is his favorite sport, and if the reaction from the girls soccer team at the high school is any indication, it will remain his favorite sport while in Payson.

Their reaction is understandable, standing nearly six feet tall and weighing around 140 to 150 pounds with twinkling brown eyes and a smile that blinds, it's easy to see why the girls might swoon over him.

Despite his good looks and endearing personality, Batista is actually a bit shy and reserved in his demeanor.

One of the reasons Hill said they asked for Batista to come to their home was that lack of cockiness.

Hill said, "We (Batista and Hill) filled out questionnaires which we then used to match us up, and when we looked at Gabriel's answers, they didn't have any kind of cocky or arrogant feeling to them, and that made us want him to come live with our family."

One of the reasons Batista came to Payson is because he thinks he may want to go into agriculture for a living, he said.

"I am not sure right now what I want to do with my life, but I think I might want to go into farming."

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