His name is Daniel Mateo Encalada-Flor, a soft-spoken young man of 17 who is some 2,700 miles from his home in Portoviejo, Ecuador. He is a Rotary Youth Exchange student, attending Webb School, and his exchange is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Farragut.
He arrived last August and was here two weeks before returning home due to the death of his role model, his father, Mauricio. He returned to Knoxville in early October and that’s when his exchange really began. He will head home in late June.
When you ask Daniel what he likes most about being in the United States, he simply says: “The people. I love the people here.”
And his favorite food here: “That’s easy. Fried chicken.”
And the most fun thing he’s done. “Snow skiing. I fall a lot.”
Dr. Lisa Howard and her husband, John, and their son Luke are Daniel’s host family for the entire time he is in Knoxville. Lisa is an optometrist and John is the chief financial officer for Commercial Bank. Luke, 16, is a student at Webb and Lisa says that Daniel “is the big brother Luke never had.”
When you ask Lisa and others about Daniel, the praise comes fast and easy.
“Daniel is a very thoughtful, kind and courteous teenage boy! He is quiet, and can seem shy until he gets to know you. His easy-going manner and good sense of humor make him a pleasure to be around,” Lisa said. “Many evenings we will find Daniel and Luke playing Xbox, ping-pong, or just listening to music. One of the highlights for Daniel is getting to be with the other exchange students in the East Tennessee Rotary District (6780). He never misses an opportunity to be with them, and has sought out several meetings even outside the planned weekends together. We see Daniel as being a special gift in all our lives.”
Daniel turns 18 on Sunday, Jan. 28. He will begin university studies when he returns home in June and like his mother, Maria, he wants to be a dentist. Daniel was the speaker at Farragut Rotary’s Wednesday meeting (Jan. 24) and the club sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
Rotarian Nancy Welch is co-chair of the club’s Youth Service Committee and has had a role in his exchange. Here’s what she says: “… Daniel is kind, personable, grateful, obedient and responsible. He is a planner and wants to know beforehand what is expected, which is a good characteristic. Daniel will be traveling on both the March Northeast and June West Coast Rotary tours, which will be a fabulous opportunity to see the United States. His spring semester will include soccer, which he loves to play.”
Farragut Rotarian Harry Gregory has been Daniel’s counselor this year and has gotten to know this young man quite well. Harry says of Daniel: “He is a warm, engaging, and intelligent young man who connects with everyone he meets. His curiosity, his desire to learn and his eagerness to fearlessly embrace every opportunity is maximizing the benefit of his time here.”