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Boro set for Up With People
Host families prepare for visitors
Up w People Team
The Up with People marketing team stands with Tim Chapman, the executive director of the Averitt Center for the Arts. The team is, from left, Julia Frey from Germany, Nikka Bendero from the Philippines and Katie Walker from Statesboro. - photo by Special

On Monday, March 4, host families will meet 120 young people from 20 countries who will stay with them while Up with People undertakes community service projects and puts on shows in Statesboro.
Plans for the entire weeklong stay, beginning with the arrival day, have now taken shape.
Buses carrying the Up with People cast will arrive at the Averitt Center for the Arts for a welcoming ceremony involving local officials and the Statesboro Youth Chorale.
Next comes a host family “coding” event. Each family will pick a popular song and performer from the 1970s to the present. Cast members will receive cards with their host family’s name and address, the names of student roommates, and the song title. Their mission is to match this “code” to the family.
Some families may simply hold signs, but others dress up, explains Katie Walker, Statesboro’s own Up with People staff member and veteran performer. A student whose card says “Beat It” might meet a family dressed as Michael Jackson.
“A lot of people like to take it to the extreme, so it’s a very interesting and fun day on arrival date, especially when they’re meeting their host families,” Walker said.
So far, Up with People has recruited hosts for about 100 of the 120 cast and crew members, Walker reported. Each family is hosting from one to six students, so about 40 families are able to providing temporary homes for 100 performers.
“So we still need just a few more host families because we don’t want the 20 left homeless, but I think we’re pretty confident that we’ll find them just because Statesboro has been very nice and willing to bring the world into their home,” Walker said.
Her phone number is (912) 682-1073 for families still interested in hosting.
Shows and service
After settling in with their host families, the young Up with People cast will spread out to meet more of Statesboro in the following days. Up with People is a nonprofit organization designed to provide travel, cultural, art performance and community service experiences for its students, who pay tuition.
Tuesday, March 5, brings a show for students, staff and faculty at Georgia Southern University, which has several departments sponsoring the visit. This is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the GSU Performing Arts Center.
On Wednesday, March 6, groups of Up with People performers will visit Sallie Zetterower Elementary School and Julia P. Bryant Elementary School and appear in a “culture fair” on the GSU campus.
Up with People’s community service day will be Thursday, March 7.  Groups are slated to visit the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County to interact with club members and do some painting and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore on Cherry Street to help clean up and arrange merchandise. Another group will go to the Statesboro Regional Library to talk to adult English for Speakers of Other Languages students about having confidence in speaking English and paint a mural in the children’s section.
Other projects include sorting food items at the Food Bank Inc., cleaning the river with Ogeechee Riverkeeper, and meeting elders at the Parks and Recreation Department senior center. At the Averitt Center’s Arts After Hours program, performers will teach a world dance class for local students ages 5-12.
The group’s big public shows are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Statesboro High School auditorium. Tickets, $15 for adults and $10 for children and older students with student ID, are sold at the Averitt Center and on its website.
International team
Three young women have been preparing for the week since arriving Jan. 20 as the Up with People marketing team. Like the cast, this advance team is international.
Walker, 22, from Statesboro, toured with Up with People for a full year, dancing, singing and doing service projects in eight countries: the United States, Mexico, the Philippines, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. She then signed up as a paid promotional representative. She is a legacy performer because her parents, Lee and Debbie Walker, met while touring North America and Europe as musicians in an Up with People band in 1984-85.
Julia Frey, from Salach, Germany, graduated from high school there in May 2012  and toured with Up with People as a singer and dancer last semester, which took her to Colorado, Massachusetts, Taiwan, the Philippines and Mexico. At 18, she is the youngest marketing team member but had visited other countries, including Japan and Ecuador, before joining the cast. She plans to attend a German university for a degree in arts management and says traveling is her greatest passion.
“So that’s why I love this job because it involves traveling, and I just love the fact of experiencing different cultures and being open-minded to learn about what they eat or how they sleep or how their family works together,” Frey said.
Nikka Bendero, 27, from the Philippines, did not perform with Up with People but served a six-month internship with the organization in 2011. She has a master’s degree in finance and has been a regular staff member for a year. The inclusion of smaller cities such as Statesboro is a neat part of the Up with People experience, she said.
“I’d never been to Statesboro. I went to Atlanta before and like other big cities in the U.S., but to go to Statesboro, what’s that?” Bendero said. “When I told my mom back home – ‘Where are you right now? – Statesboro, they had to do research on Statesboro.”
Families in about 20 countries will learn about Statesboro from their children who are touring, Bendero said.
Tim Chapman, the executive director of the Averitt Center, said this kind of exposure is important for Statesboro. He is hosting Bendero and Frey and assisting the team. The Averitt Center is an Up with People sponsor, and all ticket sale proceeds will go to the center’s fund for local arts scholarships.
Chapman enjoyed an Up with People performance in Valdosta when he was growing up there in the 1970s. Soon after taking the Averitt Center post in 2003, he contacted Up with People about performing here, but found the center’s budget at the time wouldn’t allow it, he said. Then, Katie Walker’s mother contacted him last year about the new opportunity.
“Certainly  we’re excited about the production but, really, we’re most excited about the exposure our community is going to get with this influx of 120 people from all over the world coming to our little town to share their cultures,” Chapman said.

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