Help make the world a smaller place, host a foreign student

To the Editor:

The high school exchange students who were at Guilderland High School and at Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville have returned to their home countries, but they will long be a part of the lives of many in our communities.

Thank you to the teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators at Guilderland and Voorheesville for their support and encouragement while working with the Youth For Understanding exchange students.  Sarah and Theresia, both from Germany, had an incredible year at Guilderland. Lejun, from China, wad a wonderful time completing her year at Voorheesville.

All three girls enjoyed their experiences in an American high school: talking with the hall monitors; joining clubs; being on the cross-country and track-and-field teams; singing with the choir; the opportunity to stay after school with a teacher to receive help; school trips to a local art show, Boston, and New York City; and spending time with all the students who welcomed them and became their friends.

The girls came to experience something very different, and they did.  Taking part in the daily high school life in the USA is a wonderful way to experience our culture.

They embraced many opportunities that do not exist in their home countries.  They attended football games, basketball games, cross-country and track-and-field meets to feel our school spirit.  Prom was another opportunity for all three girls to experience an exciting high school tradition. 

The lifeline of the Youth For Understanding exchange program is the host family, people who open their homes and hearts to an international teenager whom they have never met.  The host family's willingness to learn about and experience another culture becomes an opportunity for all those around them.

I want to thank the host families for their kindness, acceptance, and generosity.  Without you, the opportunity for our schools and community to develop intercultural understanding and mutual respect would not happen.

I know that it is so difficult to say goodbye at the end of the year; I did it this year on July 9.  As emotional as it was, I would host again in a heartbeat.  It is difficult to put into words the bond that was created and the joy and laughter that was shared with our Sarah.

Youth For Understanding is currently seeking host families for exchange students who are arriving to attend school this fall.  Would you consider hosting or serving as a welcome family for one of our carefully selected foreign exchange students?

The benefits of hosting a Youth For Understanding student are as numerous and varied as the families who embrace this life-altering experience.  By opening your home and heart to a student from overseas, you and your family will gain a new global perspective, many memories, and — quite possibly — a new family member for life!

To contact Youth For Understanding, you may call one of the local volunteers, me at 356-1167, Janet Breeze at 469-9179, or Shannon Rody at 646-621-7907. We would love to talk with you about our soccer-playing, theater-loving, horse-adoring, and musically talented students.  They have so many different interests and come from many countries.  You may also call 800-872-0200 to speak directly with the local field director, Daniel Pluta.

Karen Covert-Jones

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