Fund for French exchange honors Katie Horst
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:42 PM
"When Katie Horst died last year, her parents knew what she would have wanted - they have dedicated a fund to help Bainbridge exchange students go to France.Katie said that her trip to France was the happiest time of her life, said Sandra Horst, her mother. As a mom, I was so scared to let my daughter go to Europe without me, but I am so thankful that this made her so happy.Horst died last September at age 19, after suffering head injuries in a car accident. While she was in the hospital, friends set up a fund for her family, to help them through what they believed would be the long haul of her recovery. Those funds now will go to the exchange scholarship, while a flowering dogwood tree will be planted in a quiet ceremony this week at Battle Point Park, on a hill overlooking the pond and soccer fields on which Horst played.It was in 1997 that Horst traveled with the high school exchange group, the first year Bainbridge High School french teachers Roberta Newland and Melanie Solonsky took a group of students abroad.The two teachers worked hard to put the exchange program in place.They had conceived the idea in 1995, and by 1996 had the green light from the school board and district personnel.Instead of contracting with a service that will, for a considerable fee, find a sister school, Newland had located Lycee Guist'hau. Then Newland flew to France to make sure all arrangements were in place, paying for the trip herself.Twenty French students would come in late October and stay with island families for two weeks. They would attend school in the morning, and then go on short excursions Solonsky and Newland planned - a visit to the governor's mansion, a tour of Boeing's Seattle facility, a junket on the Victoria Clipper.In the spring, 16 Bainbridge students would travel to France. Four would be third-year students. Eleven would be seniors who, having studied the French language for several years with Solonsky and Newland, would have also spent half a year immersed in French art, history, literature and music.The 16th, Horst, was just 15 years old.She was our baby, Newland said, the only sophomore to participate. Horst was special to the French teachers; she figures large in their memories of the 1997 trip and in their photo albums. A smiling Horst sprawls on the grass near a statue in one picture. In another, she eats ice cream and squints at the sun.She was with the students who climbed a hill to a chapel in the Vendee. The interior of the stone building was cool and dim, Newland recalls, after the bright sun outside. Suddenly the students began to sing a Latin round, Jubilate Deo. Their blended voices echoed in the vaulted chamber.We knew - all of us - that we were experiencing a 'moment privelegie,' a Proustian privileged moment of magic, Newland later wrote. Horst did not travel in 1998, but hosted a French student anyway. After she graduated from BHS, and went on to college, Horst would still visit Newland, showing up with a double-tall Americano in hand for her former teacher.Horst remained friends with the exchange student who stayed with her family. Her parents have heard from the French family several times since their daughter's death.It was not easy for the Horsts to find the means for their daughter to take the trip that meant so much to her. That is another reason they designated the fund for travel, Sandra Horst said.I would love to think we might help some other child have this experience, she said.Contributions can be made to the Katie Horst Benevolent Fund at Washington Mutual, 842-2683. "