Host an Exchange Student: Informational Meetings July 9

Host an Exchange Student: Informational Meetings July 9waterwork

(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 4, 2014)

During the last school year, the Twomey family of Pleasant Ridge had an extra teenager with them on their day-to-day adventures. Giuseppe Ciccone came all the way from Italy, an experience he described “Being an exchange student doesn’t mean going on vacation. It means going to live in another country with another family. I am not a guest, but a family member here to experience the joys, and the chores of American life.”

Ciccone was one of two exchange students attending Ferndale High School last year, and one of 90 placed essentialcounty-wide through the Youth Four Understanding Intercultural Exchange Program.

The program is now hosting informational meetings for potential host families.

On Wednesday, July 9 there will be two informational meetings. The first is at 6pm at the Ferndale Public Library, and the second is at 7:30pm at the Pleasant Ridge Recreation Center. The meetings are in the Ferndale School District area but families from all over Oakland County can attend to learn more.

Some of the participating districts include Ferndale, Berkley, Royal Oak, Farmington, Bloomfield, Birmingham, Novi, Huron Valley, Oxford, Troy, South Lyon, Northville, Brandon, Holly. People living in other districts can also contact YFU.  Information can be shared one-on-one through volunteers at YFU, or interested parents can come to a meeting to learn more.

YFU is a nonprofit organization that formed in 1951 with a goal of connecting people across borders after World War II. According to their website “In 1951, 75 German teenagers from Germany and Austria were selected by the Army of the Occupation to come to live in the United States with American families for one gallowaycollens1year under the auspices of the US Department of State. The students selected were from the oldest age group not to have been part of the “Hitler Jugend” (the youth organization of the Nazi regime). The students were between 15 and 18 years old and, as it became apparent, this was exactly the age group which seemed to be most able to naturally participate and adjust to the lifestyles and values of a foreign family and community.

“Dr. Rachel Andresen, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor/Washtenaw Council of Churches, was asked (along with Rotary Districts in the southeastern part of Michigan) to lend her assistance and help place these first students in American homes on a voluntary basis. In 1952, the Council of Churches received seed010_todd_blakenshippermission to act as the official agency for the program, which they named “Youth For Understanding.” Family and community living were at the center of the YFU international learning experience. Andresen served the program as Executive Director until she retired in 1973.”

The torch has been carried on by families in the area each year. Barb Kilkka and her family have hosted students for over 20 years. “We began hosting exchange students in 1991 and since then, we have had 22 students from 4 continents who call us Mom and Dad,” Kilkka said. “We’re excited to be welcoming soon our first son from Greenland and we are looking forward to discovering more about his Inuit Culture.  He will be attending Bloomfield Hills High School.

“We have four natural children, and hosting is the best thing we do as a family forming lifelong connections that will go into the next generation as well.  We have danced at some of their weddings, we have celebrated their academic and career and personal successes.  And our children had natural connections in other countries that allowed them to increase their potential, personally, academically and career-wise. keith dalton ad

“And besides, it’s just been fun to see the world through their eyes!  What’s the trick?  In my opinion, it’s not fussing too much.  It’s living your normal life and including them in it and helping them to ‘get a life’ here.”

Students come to the country with spending money and health insurance, and a host family need not be well-off to give their exchange student a good experience. It is not about being on vacation or going to all the tourist spots, but about experiencing day-to-day life in Michigan.

Families can request detailed profiles and letters about some of the boys and girls available.  They get to select nicholas-schrock-allstatewith the help of YFU.  There are many misconceptions about hosting:  such as that you need to have a high school age child.  Not true.  Only about 35% of local families have a child in high school.  They may have older or younger children or none at all.  They need to have an interest in other cultures and also in the growth and development of teens.  YFU provides a volunteer who is assigned to support each family/student combination to work together to help make the experience as successful as possible.

Twomey and her family grew from their first experience hosting, and hope to do it again. “Giuseppe is a true member of our family. We have traveled and done so many fun things together. We have also cried together as he shared with us the death of a family member. He is wonderful with my children; picks up Ronan from the bus stop, helps Violet with homework and encourages Ash to try new things,” she said while he was still living in Pleasant Ridge with her, her husband and three children.sidebar016grow

“I love sharing stories about each other’s countries, language and culture. We cook together, laugh together and teach one another so many exciting new things. I can now cook authentic Italian food! My children have had their eyes opened to the world, and can now pick from families around the world willing to host them for visits.

“Having the exchange students here has done so much for our school community. Giuseppe and Nis brought new energy to the soccer team. The teachers always share with me their excitement about the perspectives the kids add to classroom conversations. International exchange programs are invaluable in preparing all our kids as global citizens.”

To learn more about YFU, visit their website at Interested individuals or families can contact them directly or come to one of the July 9 meetings to learn more.

Kilkka family and Lukas

About the author

Oakland County Times has written 13972 articles for Oakland County Times

Contact for any questions or story ideas! Please support this work by becoming an advertising sponsor or by chipping in through the PayPal button on the right side of the page.

Comments are closed.