GREENVILLE — A student exchange program was developed in the 1960s to help build friendship all around the world in hopes of discouraging the younger generation from starting wars with each other in the future.
For one Greenville family and an exchange student from Germany, the program was more than a success as communications and visits continued for more than 50 years — building a family bond between the two families.
Ina Klussendorf attended Greenville High School in 1962 for one year when she was 18 to participate in the Youth for Understanding Exchange Student Program. She graduated from Greenville in 1963.
“It was an adventure,” Klussendorf said, describing the experience as one from “Alice in Wonderland.”
Klussendorf’s host parents were Dr. and Mrs. Nels Sorensen of Greenville. Klussendorf is believed to be one of the first, if not the first, exchange student in Greenville Public Schools.
“I had the nicest host parents,” she said of the Sorensens.
The Sorensens’ son, Pete Sorensen, and his future wife, Carol Sorensen, became close with Klussendorf during her time in Greenville.
But, after an emotional goodbye after graduation, she returned to Germany where she met her future husband Peter Klussendorf.
Ina and Peter shared their love for the United States, and once they were married, both returned to Greenville to live for a year in 1965.
While they were here, Peter got a job at Greenville Tool and Die and the relationship between the Klussendorfs and Sorensens continued to strengthen.
Once Ina and Peter moved back to Germany, they never lost touch with the Sorensens, especially Carol and Pete, who became a well-known dentist in Greenville.
Over the years, each family continued to visit the other, even surprising one another on special occasions like birthdays, births, weddings and more.
“It was a family connection,” Ina said of her relationship with the Sorensens.
From 1984 through 1985, the Klussendorfs’ oldest daughter, Julia, also attended school in Greenville, followed by their youngest daughter, Jana, from 1987 to 1988.
While Ina attended Jana’s graduation, she also celebrated her 25th reunion by attending the Greenville Alumni Banquet to catch up with other friends from her year in school in the United States.
Although Ina and her family have returned many times to visit the Sorensens since the 1980s, Ina once again returned to Greenville this week to attend the Greenville Alumni Banquet — her 50th class reunion.
“I had many nice memories,” she said of her time at Greenville High School. “I can still hear some of the teachers talk.”
The 124th annual Greenville Alumni Banquet will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Greenville High School with social hour being from 4 to 5 p.m.
According to Steve Kemp, the alumni association treasurer, all alumni are invited to the event, but he noted the biggest groups are from the class celebrating 50 years.
“I feel it is important to keep this event going so that future generations can enjoy it for years to come,” Kemp said.
On Saturday, the EFG Outstanding Alumnus Award will be going to Bruce Towne, who graduated in 1986. The alumni banquet guest speaker will be Fran Larsen from the class of 1963.
“I am excited to see all my old school friends,” Klussendorf said, adding with a smile and a laugh, “I wonder if we will recognize each other.”
Reflecting over the years and especially the relationship her and her family have developed with the Sorensen family, Ina knows her student exchange experience was a special one.
“(The program) has influenced my whole life,” Ina said, noting there might have been experiences she would not have had throughout her life if she did not studied in Greenville.