With a Star Valley summer in full swing, most families are thinking about camping – not the classroom. But, for student exchange programs, summer is the time to interview families and make plans for youth from around the globe to spend the next academic year in LCSD2.
“NorthWest Student Exchange has been providing services through the U.S. Dept. of State to place exchange students with American families,” said Cynthia Burgeson, regional coordinator or NorthWest Student Exchange.
According to Burgeson, the efforts to place exchange students into American high schools is a lengthy process. Students must pass certain criteria to be accepted into the program.
“NorthWest Student Exchange has partner exchange programs abroad who initially screen candidates to participate in the exchange,” said Burgeson. “These candidates are forwarded to our home office in Seattle, Washington and screened for English skills, level of maturity and ability to complete a successful exchange.”
Once exchange students are selected, the process of finding an American family to host them and a school district to accept them begins.
“The goal of the exchange program is to create lifelong friendships with people from other nations with the hope that this will build toward a more peaceful world,” said Burgeson. “Students participate in the exchange for an academic year. They generally arrive at the end of August in time to register for school and settle into their host family home and community. They leave in June when school has ended.”
“Host families provide a place for a new family member in their home, a bed, place to study, meals and most of all love,” Burgeson continued. “Host families provide transportation to and from school activities as well. The natural families of the exchange students provide a monthly allowance which pays for school registration sports/activities and family activities. Student responsibility is to maintain a C grade in each class and most of all make lifelong friendships.”
According to Burgeson, not only do exchange students benefit from the program. Hosting an exchange student can have a lifelong positive impact on the family and community.
Through exchange student programs “we gain insight into other cultures and learn to view the USA through another person’s eyes,” she said.
“Hosting an exchange student makes a difference,” Burgeson said.
Right now NorthWest Student Exchange is seeking Star Valley families interested in hosting exchange students. The students have been accepted by LCSD2 and are in need of host families, Burgeson.
“The challenges of managing an exchange program are finding Academic Coordinators who will actively find families to host students and finding host families,” Burgeson said. “Our jobs are a struggle year around! But we are passionate about the exchange, we want to help students gain opportunity to participate, and the biggest reward are the smiles on the student’s faces and lifelong friendships created. There is no word in our dictionary to describe this. This is why I am going on eight years recruiting and training new coordinators plus finding host families for our candidates. I still hear from students I placed the first year I placed them with families. They never forget us. We never forget them.”
“We welcome calls from families considering the hosting experience,” Burgeson continued. “We can answer questions, resolve concerns and help families begin the process to gain a new family member.”
The first requirement is to complete the host family application. Once completed a local Academic Coordinator will visit the family home and meet all family members who will be living in the home during the student’s stay.
“We begin building a positive working relationship with the family, answer questions, and help with selection of a student that would be a smooth transition into that family’s unit, school and community,” Burgeson said.
The NorthWest Exchange Student Academic Coordinator for Star Valley is Jackie Fisher (307) 248-3614.
To contact Cynthia Burgeson, call (541) 829-0602.