The first thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it is, by all accounts, a life changing experience for the students, for the host families, and for the student counsellors.
The second thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it isn’t nearly as big a program as it could be, or should be, in our district.
And the third thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it is a complicated program to administer. I mean…it’s REALLY complicated. We are lucky in our District to have Chris Perlick as our Youth Exchange Chairman. He’s been involved with Youth Exchange since the mid 1990’s and he’s an expert on the subject. Since I like to hang out with experts, I recently spent the morning at Panera Bread in Silver Spring with Chris and Outbound Youth Exchange Chair, Karin Jones, a former Peace Corps volunteer and more importantly, a former youth exchange student to Denmark, AND a member of the Dupont Circle Club. The morning’s agenda was to try to give me the short course in how the program works.
I have two pages of notes, including some indecipherable line charts showing the relationship between the State Department (yup…that’s the United States of America State Department), Rotary International, an organization called the Eastern States Student Exchange, or ESSEX, Rotary District 7390, our Rotary District 7620, our Rotary clubs, individual counties in the State of Maryland, individual school districts in the state of Md., and ..well…I think you get the picture. The bottom line is that Chris and his committee of one, Karin, are committed to continuing to send 3 – 5 high school age students abroad for the school year and to hosting the same number of students here in the District.
Here’s just a few facts about the program that you might find interesting:
Typical Exchange Student stays are from August until June
Each county in the State of Md. has its own regulations about exchange students that must be navigated.
Exchange students typically stay with three different host families during their stay.
90% of host families are non-Rotarians.
On average it costs about $5,000 to send a student overseas for the school year. Many clubs provide financial aid if needed and District 7620 has a small scholarship fund to help out as well. Turns out this is one of the least expensive exchange programs out there.
Any student can go overseas…including the children of Rotarians.
Each exchange student has a host counselor that is different from their host family.
We’ve had about 15 different Rotary clubs that have served as host clubs for host families.
Inbound students in the state of Md. have to be proficient in English (something here about passing TOEFL tests, (Test of English Foreign Language) but our outbound students do not have to be proficient in foreign language.
When I asked Chris and Karin why the program isn’t bigger, the answer seems to be we need to find more host families. Here is Chris’s take on why your club might want to be more involved with youth exchange. NOTE: Sorry for the Panera Bread background noise. Try to pay attention!
Since I had successfully negotiated with Chris’s agent in terms of getting him on video without his usual fee, I thought I would ask him some additional questions. In this two minute clip, Chris responds to the important issue of why you should consider hosting a youth exchange student. He then tackles some spoof questions from your intrepid RFA reporter about how to handle exchange students who are much smarter than their host families, why deal with annoying teenagers when you are finally rid of your own, and how to persuade youth exchange students to do chores around your house. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Chris was serious in answering question number 1 and was a good sport about trying to answer the questions that follow with a straight face. RFA readers will recognize my sophomoric attempts at humor and appreciate Chris’s valiant attempts to provide cogent answers to my stupid questions. I think I can accurately report that Karin (off-camera) was chuckling at Chris’s responses. FULL DISCLOSURE: PLEASE do not consider hosting a youth exchange student in order to get chores done around your house.
Here’s what I do know. We are all very lucky to have Chris running the Youth Exchange program for our District, and he is lucky to have Karin join his committee. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with Youth Exchange as a counselor, host family, or just as a member of Chris’s committee, give him a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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