By Jessi Edwards
What makes your town or city great? Is it the people, the places, the experiences? For some of us who have lived in the Lehigh Valley all our lives, or even those who are newly transplanted, our little slice of the world is jam-packed with some of the most interesting and coolest places to be – but sometimes we get “blinded” and forget them, because we see these places all the time. I know I do!
How would you describe your area to someone from out of town, let alone from a different country? Would you talk about the Iron Pigs, maybe the Crayola Factory, Allentown Fair or Musikfest? Or would it be the smaller things like the many universities that call our area home or the ever bustling communities like Southside Bethlehem or downtown Easton?
Now what would you say if I could offer you the opportunity to help change the world for a high-school aged foreign exchange student looking to study in America for a year? By bringing one of these special kids to the Lehigh Valley, you will indeed have just that opportunity to show off our beautiful area and make some exciting new memories for you and your family!
My name is Jessi Edwards and I am what is known as a local coordinator for an educational non-profit organization called The Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI for short). Our company has been in business since 1985 and every year grants over 800 students their dream of studying in the USA for a semester or academic year. To help facilitate this process, these students require a place to call home – families who are willing to host them and have them become an extended member of their own family.
My job is to find these special families and make what I hope to be a perfect match with one of our students! Through interviewing the family, learning their interests, concerns and reasons for wanting to host, I comb through my database and find a student with similar interests. Then that’s where the magic starts to happen. Once I believe I have a match (I present up to 4 students at a time) and the host family accepts one, now we get down to business and start on the adventure!
Host families can be just about anyone – from varied economic, religious and racial backgrounds and include working parents, empty nesters, singles and single parents. All that is required is:
- Open communication, encouragement, patience and sound advice
- A separate bed, which can be in a shared room with a host sibling of similar age and same gender, and a quiet place to study
- Three daily meals (school lunch may be one of them)
- Local transportation (students are not permitted to drive while on the program)
- Treatment as a member of the family, which may include household rules, responsibilities and privileges.
So if this sounds like you and I have grabbed your interest, I would love to speak with you! This year we have 815 students representing 28 different countries such as France, Germany, Finland, China, Japan and Brazil (just to name a few).
I already have a girl from Finland set to study in Bangor High School and a French boy in East Stroudsburg – but I’d like to give the Lehigh Valley some more international flair!
Our students are coming in mid-August and applications to become a host family are due by July 31, 2013.