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The Deer Park Community

Rotary looking for students for Youth Exchange Program

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Community

For years, the seeds of the spirit of Rotary’s international goodwill are sown early through programs like its youth exchange. At this week’s Deer Park Rotary luncheon, the club heard about how students and families can participate in foreign exchange student programs.

Through its international foundations, the Deer Park Rotary Club and other Rotarians throughout the world assist students and families in many ways. Among the club’s goodwill programs is the Rotary Youth Exchange. At Wednesday’s Deer Park Rotary meeting, Mark Anton discussed how students can immerse themselves in the world in a foreign exchange program.

Anton’s daughter Victoria, a student at Deer Park High School, expressed interest in being a foreign exchange student. He soon learned Rotary was interviewing prospective students for it Youth Exchange program.

The family soon learned Victoria was chosen to participate and she spent a year studying in The Netherlands. From that moment, not only did the Anton family’s lives change, they have also been able to help other families across the globe.

“We use relationships we’ve already built with other countries. There’s thousands of students who go overseas and that come here,” Anton said.

Rotary International tries to match students to countries where they can learn new languages and cultures.

“Students should be outgoing, a good student, and completely open-minded,” Anton said. “In some programs, so long as a parent can write a check, the student gets to go. Rotary is completely different.”

“It’s all dependent on the student in Rotary. There’s an interview process and the students in the Rotary program want to see the world and they want to participate in family activities,” he said.

Rotary International interviews students and provides thorough orientations so that the student is trained in public speaking and can walk into a room and not feel like they are among strangers.

Students are typically 16-18 years old and in many cases, the student loses a year of United States education.

“When my daughter ended up a year behind her class, but for the experiences she had, she believes it was well worth it,” Anton said.

While Victoria was in The Netherlands, Anton visited her on a day she was giving a presentation to a local Rotary club.

“She was up there and she was giving the presentation in Dutch and it was blind blowing to me. We bought her the Rosetta Stone program before she left and it did her no good. She didn’t speak any Dutch when she got there and now she was doing presentations in their language,” he said.

There are short term and long term Rotary Youth Exchange programs. The short term program lasts about six weeks and the student goes abroad during the summer months for three weeks, living in with another family. At the end of the three weeks, the roles reverse and the student comes home with another student, and are hosted for three weeks. The cost estimate is about $2,000.

The long term program lasts a full academic school year and costs range from $5,000 to $6,000. The host family roles are split between two or three families. The major costs is airfare and insurance. The student also gets a small monthly stipend from the host Rotary Club. Everything else is provided by the host family.

Anton said Rotary is actively looking for American students who want to go outbound. Students do not have to be related to a Rotarian to participate.

“We’re trying to get the word out and pique interest so we can get them started. In November, we’ll start the interviews,” he said. “We’re looking to identify good candidates. To send outbound, we have to bring students inbound as well. It’s such a joy to bring a new personality into your life.”

Hosting duties are typically split by semester between two, sometimes three families. Misty Cone, a Deer Park Rotarian, and her family co-hosted a student last year.

“It was wonderful. It wasn’t an adjustment to have another family member in the house. You meet wonderful kids that become part of your family. They renew your sense of hope,” Cone said. “It doesn’t matter if you have kids or don’t have kids, if your kids are young or grown, it’s an absolutely wonderful experience to be a host family. They bring so much energy and joy into your home.”