Exchange students build court accessory for park

WEIRTON – Marland Heights Park visitors this spring will have the option of practicing tennis solo, which is arguably less embarrassing than getting beat by an opponent.

This new opportunity is thanks to two 16-year-old exchange students enrolled at Weir High School. Bill Galloway, a local attorney, is hosting Claudia Diaz, who is visiting from Spain, and Barbara Sulimanova, who is visiting from Slovakia for the school year.

As a community service project, Diaz and Sulimanova spent 10 hours assembling and painting a tennis backboard for Marland Heights Park. The wall allows one person to practice tennis shots against him or herself without the help of a second player. Both girls are tennis enthusiasts and hope to play on the Weir High team this spring.

“We wanted to practice more, but with this weather it’s been harder than we expected,” Sulimanova said.

Galloway purchased the $500 worth of materials, and Coty Shingle and Terry Weigel of the parks department helped install the wall.

“We get such a good benefit out of projects like these,” Weigel said. “When these girls return to their countries they’ll be leaving something great behind for the community to use.”

Galloway has hosted numerous exchange students during the past 20 years through Rotary programs and most recently a group called International Student Exchange, which has been operating since the end of World War I as a means of promoting peace and understanding beyond national borders.

“The point is for students from other countries to see what it’s like to live in the United States as an American,” he explained. “These girls are selected because they’re fluent in English and very outgoing. In a way they are like amateur ambassadors, representing their countries to the students here.”

Diaz and Sulimanova have had an eventful experience in the U.S. so far. They have been whitewater rafting, visited New York City and Pittsburgh, stayed at Greenbrier Resort, experienced WVU football and Penguins hockey and are planning to visit Walt Disney World in Florida before the end of their stay. Aside from all the travel and shopping they’ve enjoyed, skiing seems to be their favorite activity. The girls have skied slopes at Oglebay, Seven Springs, Canaan Valley and locations in Maryland and Western New York, and they are excited to visit Colorado for skiing next month as well.