Bolivia is home for Nico Lema Severich, but Washougal will always hold a special place in his heart.
By playing on the Washougal High School tennis and soccer teams, the 17-year-old foreign exchange student feels he has become a Panther for life. On May 29, Lema Severich earned third place in the single’s bracket of the state tennis tournament in Seattle. He also helped the Panther soccer team win a home playoff game, on May 10.
“It was one of the best things for a foreign exchange student to be able to come in and be part of a team,” Lema Severich said. “As the games went on, I could see we were making a bond. I really enjoyed it. I made a lot of good friends.”
Two of his good friends are Eyan Cagle and Patrick McCarthy. They both knew nothing about him, until he showed up for tennis practice one day and started beating them up and down the court.
“I don’t think I would have made it to state without him,” Cagle said. “He made me work hard every day and every practice, and was such a good influence on all of us. I’m always going to remember the time he was here.”
McCarthy and Lema Severich continued on as teammates in soccer, before making one last run together in the state tennis tournament.
“I’m glad sports gave him an opportunity to branch out and make new friends,” McCarthy said. “He definitely made the most of his time out here, and he has given us all a face to Bolivia.”
Lema Severich’s feeling of belonging should magnify Saturday, when he graduates with his classmates at Fishback Stadium.
“The senior class was great. I couldn’t ask for a better one,” Lema Severich said. “The ceremony sounds pretty awesome. I got my cap and gown yesterday, and I’m looking forward to going to all of the events this week. I want to make these last few weeks the best, because I only have three left.”
Lema Severich lived in Washougal for the past school year, with host parents Mike and Ruth Ladage. Knowing that Lema Severich is a huge sports fan, they took him to see the Seattle Seahawks and the Mariners, the Washington Huskies and the Portland Winter Hawks.
“I can never say ‘thank you’ enough to Mike and Ruth,” Lema Severich said. “They have such a great family.”
Lema Severich attended several Washougal football and basketball games. He also enjoyed his time in the classroom.
“The school here is just incredible,” Lema Severich said. “All of the teachers helped me out a lot, and you could see how much they care for the students. Every single test and every single struggle all made it a good experience.”
Lema Severich returns to Tarija, Bolivia, on June 27, just five days after his 18th birthday. Although he looks forward to reuniting with his mother, two older brothers and all of his friends back home, Lema Severich will never forget the year he wore the Panther orange and black.
“I just want to thank everyone who is a part of this community. You all help keep this place so beautiful and so safe,” he said. “I am so glad I got the opportunity to come here. I can’t believe it’s almost over. I’m always going to remember these days, and I’m going to tell my grandkids about them.”