"Normally, you have to be the child of a Rotary member to become an exchange student, but in Bolivia not many children of Rotary members applied for the program and so I was chosen to be an exchange student this year," said Ferdy.
The Bolivian teenager arrived in the United States in September of 2010 and plans to stay in Cassville until sometime in July. Even though he is spending an extended period of time away from his family, Ferdy said that he is not homesick.
"When we raised our hands to serve as host parents we weren't really sure," said Carolyn. "We were interested in learning more about another culture and language, but when you have a busy business you don't get to travel much. We thought it would be a privilege to have a student come here and bring their culture with them."
Craig has been learning Spanish, which is the native language in Bolivia. His bilingual skills have allowed him to communicate with Ferdy's parents, but the teen arrived with an extensive knowledge of English.
"At my school in Bolivia they stress the importance of learning English grammar," said Ferdy. "We start learning English in kindergarten but get very serious about it in high school."
Carolyn and Craig are working to ensure Ferdy learns a large variety of information about American culture and visits many attractions located in the Midwest
"With me working, it is hard for us to leave, but we have taken him to St. Louis to see the Arch," said Carolyn. "His dad is an architect so we thought he would enjoy that. My daughter also arranged for him to go to an Usher concert, which he loved."
"I think that will be the highlight of his trip," said Craig.
While visiting St. Louis, Ferdy also had the opportunity to see "The Wizard of Oz" at the Fox.
"I had heard of 'The Wizard of Oz,' but I didn't know what it was," said Ferdy. "I liked it."
Ferdy had the opportunity to see Tony Orlando and the Lennon sisters in concert in Branson during a celebration held in honor of Craig's mother's 89th birthday.
"He wanted to be a part of the family. I think he was probably the youngest one there, but he was a good sport," said Carolyn. "He knows every American pop culture song and can sing along with all of them, but he had never heard 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.'"
Ferdy has visited malls in St. Louis, Springfield and Tulsa, Okla., and had the opportunity to fish with Craig on Table Rock Lake, attend a Missouri State University Lady Bears basketball game and take part in a ski trip to Keystone, Colo.
"That was the first time I had ever seen snow," said Ferdy. "It doesn't snow in Bolivia. The coldest winter we have ever had there was last year when it was 38 degrees. We didn't have school for a week, because we don't have heaters at school."
Since his trip to Colorado, Ferdy has enjoyed watching it snow in Barry County on several occasions. The latest snow allowed the teen and his host parents to build a snowman in the front yard of the Burford home.
"I hope Ferdy has the opportunity to visit Kansas City during his stay," said Carolyn. "I have talked with other Rotary members in hopes that if any of them go there they might take him with them."
Ferdy is also enjoying his experience at Cassville High School.
"School here is 100 percent different than in Bolivia," said Ferdy. "You get the chance to choose your classes here. In Bolivia you have 13 subjects you have to take each year. You also get to change classes here. There, the teacher changes classes and you remain in one room from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m."
Even though the school day is longer in the U.S., Ferdy says he enjoys the time spent outside of classrooms between classes and at lunch.
"That really breaks the school day up," said Ferdy. "The high school here also has more technology. There are computers in every classroom. In Bolivia, there are only computers in the computer room."
Cassville High School students have done their best to ensure Ferdy has a well rounded experience. This year, the teen was nominated as a Mr. Merry Christmas candidate. By raising the most funds for Share Your Christmas, Ferdy won the holiday contest.
"When he told us he had been nominated, we asked him if he knew how much work would be involved," said Carolyn. "Craig helped him by taking him around to all of the businesses each day after school."
Carolyn also helped Ferdy collect funds by baking dozens and dozens of cookies that Ferdy sold at school for 75 cents each.
"The other students said that they would have paid $1 for the cookies," said Ferdy. "They would always ask me, 'What are you selling this week, Ferdy?"
Craig said participating in the contest helped encourage Ferdy to interact with more community members.
"What people don't know is that Ferdy wrote a check too," said Carolyn. "He took some of his Christmas money and donated it to Share Your Christmas. I thought it was really something that Rotary, a service organization, made his visit possible and he decided to participate in a service project himself."
Ferdy received a letter of encouragement in recognition of his fundraising efforts from Peggy George, who served as a Rotary district governor in 2006-07 and currently helps organize the youth exchange program.
"Ferdy has really impressed me in that he has such respect for all people and elders in particular," said Carolyn. "When Craig's mother visits, Ferdy greets her and gives her a hug. Then, he gives her another before she leaves. Now, she pauses to get those hugs.
"He has been a great son," said Carolyn. "We have tried to treat him as a member of our family and not just a guest, and it has been great. He is a good kid."
Ferdy has two younger sisters who also plan to participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. His family will host an exchange student through the program next year.