Champaign County school district reviving international student exchange program

Mariam Ghebregergis, from Germany, and her host sister, Impreza Izzy Rogers stand together in Springfield in May.

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Mariam Ghebregergis, from Germany, and her host sister, Impreza Izzy Rogers stand together in Springfield in May.

Host familes for foreign exchange students needed in Clark, Champaign counties.

A Champaign County school district and a regional agency are looking for homes for foreign exchange students this coming school year.

Graham Local Schools is looking for two families to take in two students either for a semester or the entire school year, superintendent Kirk Koennecke said.

“We are looking to do an exchange of two students here at Graham for the first time in over a decade,” Koennecke said.

American Scandinavian Student Exchange, a regional agency, is also seeking local families to host international exchange students.

There is always a need for volunteers, said Kelley Rogers, a representative of ASSE.

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Bringing in foreign exchange students to the school can help local students learn that there is more to the world than just their community or even country, Koennecke said.

“We are trying to bring back this priority for our students to interact with other students and gain a global perspective,” Koennecke said. “Wherever these students come from it’s going to be a lifelong experience for those involved. All of our students are going to get exposed to different cultures in the form of these students who are visiting and living with families and are interacting and learning.”

Students can bring a different world view to the district, Graham High School Assistant Principal Vinnie Spirko said.

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“Our goal is to provide an intercultural exchange for two students and expose all of our students to the global possibilities and opportunities these exchange programs can offer,” he said. “Many people involved as host families or as participants end up forging lifelong connections with these students. The experience is life-changing for those involved.”

The two families that take in students do not have to have students enrolled in the district, Koennecke said, but having a child in the district is preferred.

Anyone interested can contact the district for more details, Koennecke said.

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In addition to being a representative of ASSE, Rogers is part of a family that houses an exchange student, said homes are always needed so that students who want to experience America for a semester or two can.

Being a volunteer is a rewarding experience, Rogers said.

“It’s an adventure you won’t regret,” she said “It will change your life for the better in a lot of ways. If you can’t get out into the world this is the way the world can come to you.”

Rogers lives in Springfield and has housed an international exchange student several times — sending them to the Clark-Shawnee school district.

Last year, there were three foreign exchange students in Clark County and one at West Liberty-Salem, Rogers said. This year two students are expected to be enrolled at Southeastern Local Schools, she said, and there are students who are still hoping to find a home for a semester or the year.

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“If we can find host families there are plenty of more students,” she said.

Anyone interested in housing an international exchange student can start the process by going to ASSE.com, Rogers said, and selecting the “host student” tab.

Anyone with questions can call her at 937-360-3229 or email Rogers at exchangestudentrep@Ymail.com.

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