AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’Besides missing the wealth of pizzerias available to her in Santa Clarita, Zhang also will miss her friends and host family. “Everyone has been so nice here,” Zhang said. Still in its infancy, the Chinese exchange program has been a real success for the William S. Hart Union High School District, just the second high school district in the nation to offer this type of exchange with Chinese students. “This is a fascinating program and as American education goes we need more understanding of diverse cultures, traditions and history from peoples of the far corners of the world,” Saugus High School Principal Bill Bolde said. “For many of our students, the world begins and ends here in the Santa Clarita Valley; this is a chance for them to experience students, their age, with very different customs.” SAUGUS – Saugus High freshman Rebecca Zhang likes listening to music and watching movies with friends, and she loves pizza. “Oh, my god, I could eat pizza every day,” the energetic 15-year-old said. It is difficult to single Zhang out in a crowd of teens, but she is one of five exchange students who will return home to Xian, China, at the end of the month. At a Chinese culture show, put on by the students and their chaperone this week at Saugus, Zhang traded her beloved pizza for fortune and almond cookies. The traditional fare was accompanied by Chinese writing lessons and traditional music, an event planned by the students to say thank you and goodbye to their Saugus friends who will be leaving at the end of the month when they return home. The five Chinese exchange students were hand-picked from their hometown high schools for their academic excellence. The lowest grade-point average in the group hovers above 4.0. Once the students were chosen for the 7,000-mile trip, Hart district officials found host families, giving preference to families with kids in the host school. Saugus freshman Katie Floyd is host sister to 15-year-old Zoey Bai. The experience, Katie said, has been amazing. “It has been really cool to have someone there for me,” she said. Saugus offers Chinese language instruction and, through the exchange program, might send students to go to China for the summer. For Saugus senior Eric Furubotten, the experience of being in China was “awesome and life-changing.” Furubotten has decided to major in Chinese and hopes to go into international business with the booming economy. Yan Li Dong, the Chinese English teacher who chaperones the five exchange students, passed out her handmade dumplings at a recent school event. “In China, food is the No. 1 thing. It’s like art and it must have good taste, smell,” Dong said. But Dong said it is the Americans’ love of family that has probably changed her the most. “I am going to spend more time with my family,” Dong said. As a high school teacher, it is not unusual for Dong to work up to six days a week. [email protected] (661) 257-5254160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!