Payson High School gained a musician when 16-year-old foreign exchange student Joshua Hegenauer from Germany joined its ranks at the beginning of the school year.
Brazilian exchange student, Gabriel Martins Borges Ferreira Batista, known to many at the high school as G-Baby, who also is staying with a Payson area family while going to school, may be in for a battle over the crown for most popular male foreign exchange student at the high school.
Hegenauer, a junior in high school, is staying in Pine with Mike Buskirk and his wife Daria Mason, both music teachers at Payson public schools.
The Buskirks have hosted foreign exchange students twice before.
Buskirk teaches at Rim Country Elementary School, and Mason teaches at Frontier Elementary School.
Hegenauer comes from a community much like the one in Pine in that it is also a smaller town close to a larger town.
He lives in a suburb about the same size as Payson, he said, outside the larger town of Ulm in southern Germany, and just like he does here, he also took a bus from one community to another to attend high school in his hometown.
"The ride from my house to the high school in Ulm looks very much like it does here and takes about the same amount of time, about 20 minutes," he said.
Hegenauer said the elevation and climate in Payson is much like the town he comes from, but there are some differences.
For example, he said while hamburgers and french fries are popular among German youth, just like here in the U.S., there aren't near as many fast-food restaurants.
"There are only one or two where I come from, and Payson is much smaller than Ulm, but I can't even count how many there are here," He said.
He said he isn't one for eating at fast-food restaurants himself, because he is a strict vegetarian.
Some vegetarian diets allow eating poultry and fish, but Hegenauer eats absolutely no animal meat whatsoever, only vegetables.
"I don't eat any meat, because I just love animals," he said. "I don't want to have animals killed, so I can eat them."
Mason said she has had to make some alterations to mealtime menus to accommodate Hegenauer being a vegetarian.
"We have had to make some adjustments, bringing a vegetarian into a house full of carnivores," she said with a laugh. "But it hasn't been any difficulty."
Commonalities between the Buskirks and Hegenauer create common ground for them to relate to each other, in spite of any minor differences.
For instance, Hegenauer is a musician and both Buskirk and Mason have extensive musical backgrounds.
Hegenauer plays the drums, mostly jazz and blues, he said his listening tastes are more like the typical American teenager's.
Hegenauer said he likes metal and rock 'n' roll, but said he is not too fond of rap.
"I like to listen to metal bands like Metallica and Slayer, I do not like rap very much, it is not really my taste," he said.
Mason said Hegenauer's musical tastes have helped him blend well with the Buskirk family.
Buskirk and Mason have taught music to Payson youth for 12 years.
Mason said one of the reasons they chose Hegenauer was because of his musical background.
"We looked at several students' applications, before choosing Joshua," she said. "And his interest in music was one of the factors that inspired us to choose him."
Hegenauer is in the marching band at Payson High School, playing at football games and other school functions.
His coming to Payson was made possible by the EF Foundation for Foreign Study.
The EF Foundation is an organization that facilitates sending and bringing foreign exchange students to and from the United States.
The majority of students placed by the foundation are students brought to the U.S. from China, Europe, South America, Canada, France and New Zealand, to name a few, but they also place U.S. students in countries overseas.
The local representative for the EF Foundation is Edith Miller, who is an international exchange coordinator.
Unlike some other foreign exchange programs that require students to stay with more than one family during the school year, students placed by the EF Foundation have the option of staying with multiple families while in the U.S., or staying with one host family the entire time.
Students like Hegenauer who are placed in the U.S. spend 10 months with a host family or families, before returning to their home country.
For more information on the EF Foundations foreign exchange program, contact Edith Miller 928-476-4871.