NATCHITOCHES — The number of international students on campus at Northwestern State University is growing.
NSU President Randall J. Webb said the number of international students at NSU is increasing with about 45 to 50 international students from China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia and other countries this year.
A group of six international students from Colombia started their first semester at NSU last week. All received scholarships to study music after a 2011 audition before Jones and Bill Brent, director of NSU’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.
The six students graduated in December from their high school, Ciudad Escolar de Comfenalco, in Cartagena, Colombia.
It all started with a tour of the city with Monica Sara Paez, who coordinates international exchange programs at the Fundacion Universitaria Tecnologico Comfenalco, a partner with NSU in an exchange agreement.
In 2011, Paez took Jones and NSU Provost Lisa Abney to the high school, which is connected with university.
That’s when Jones first met Edgar Avilan-Diaz, 38, and student Adrian Alfaro-Fontalvo and heard them play piano and trombone, respectively, in the orchestra.
Alfaro-Fontalvo had been offered a scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University, but Jones made him a different offer.
“I said, ‘I’d like you at NSU,’ ” Jones said.
Avilan-Diaz, a dentist by trade, also was offered a scholarship and traveled to Natchitoches with the students.
“When we listened to the orchestra we were moved — some of us to tears — from the level at which they played and their age,” Jones said.
Jones recorded the orchestra on video and emailed it to Brent, who responded quickly with “When can we go?”
Brent and Jones traveled to Cartagena to audition 27 students and subsequently offered all of them a scholarship.
About 12 to 14 students from Cartegena will join the six in August, he said. Jones said it was important that the students come as a group to such a new setting.