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Hillside High theater students back from dream trip to Cuba

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The talented teens from Durham's Hillside High School returned from Cuba on Friday.

They arrived back at RDU with the swagger of national champions and quickly found themselves in the warm embrace of moms, dads, sisters and brothers who haven't seen their talented teens in nearly a week.

"Welcome back man! I love you," one father said. "So glad you were able to go over there, man."

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Over there is Havana, Cuba. 1,000 miles from home in Durham, where these Hillside High schoolers spent six days on the island as a part of an international theater exchange program.

Hillside's theater program is 100-students strong, but these were the elite eight selected for the exchange. They're called One Voice Acting Troupe. Wendell Tabb is their instructor.



"It was absolutely amazing," Tabb said, describing the trip. "You hear so much about the Cuban experience and we got a chance to experience the true Cuban experience."

"So we took a lot of salsa classes, rhumba classes, a lot of mambo classes," senior Camryn Sherer said.

"We exchanged our culture and they exchanged their culture with us and it was amazing," said senior Jordan Jarmon. "(We) experienced a different lifestyle and in exchange, we got to clear up any confusion between the two countries, bridging the gap."

Once the group got over its initial amazement of the cars in Cuba stuck in the 1950s and other differences built in by a decades-long U.S. embargo, these "Hillsiders" say they were embraced.

They enjoyed their share of performances and got the chance to show off their own dancing, singing and acting chops as well. And, they quickly discovered they had a lot in common with their Cuban counterparts.

"It's nice to see that there's still some commonalities," Sherer said. "We laugh at the same things. It takes us just the same time to learn dance steps. It's still an eight-count when it's an eight-count."

The trip has been in the works for the last two years, since the Obama Administration began to normalize relations with Cuba. And with a successful trip in the books, there's already talk of a reciprocal visits from their new Cuban counterparts.

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