I don't think I would have been as courageous when I was your age to leave my home and go someplace that seemed really far away
San Francisco, CA (Vocus) June 23, 2010
Last week Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an address to a group of AYUSA high school exchange students visiting on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, commended the students on their courage in coming to the U.S. and thanked the American families who had welcomed them into their homes for the school year.
“I don’t think I would have been as courageous when I was your age to leave my home and go someplace that seemed really far away,” said Secretary Clinton from the Dean Acheson Auditorium in the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. “So I join in commending you for taking this opportunity to see what it was like in the United States. And I also want to thank the host families for opening up their homes to each and every one of you. We obviously could not run this program without them.”
Every year, more than 28,000 high school students from around the world come to the U.S. to study as part of U.S. government-sponsored foreign exchange programs, like the YES program. The students, ages 15 to 19 years old, are placed with volunteer host families in communities across America.
“I absolutely love being a host mom to YES students,” said Katrina Ontiveros, an AYUSA host mom from Arizona who hosted YES students from Pakistan and Bangladesh this year. “We firmly believe that by sharing our home with foreign exchange students we can help to break down stereotypes between our cultures. Next year we are welcoming two more YES students into our home in order to continue the learning process and bridge the gaps between the U.S. and the other parts of the world.”
The Ontiveros family is one of thousands of U.S. families that have opened their homes to foreign exchange students through AYUSA, an established non-profit based in San Francisco that has been placing international exchange students with U.S. host families for 30 years. AYUSA is currently accepting applications from families interested in hosting an exchange student for the 2010-2011 school year.
There is no “typical” American host family and having school-aged children is not a requirement. Host families include married couples with or without children, empty-nesters, single parents, and even grandparents. Exchange students are placed with students in both rural and urban communities – in small towns, on farms, in the suburbs and in big cities.
Host families are asked to provide a safe, warm and nurturing environment while sharing their American culture with their student. A host family’s financial responsibility is minimal. Host families provide three meals a day and a bedroom (either private or shared with a host sibling of the same gender). Each student is supported by a professionally trained Community Representative from AYUSA that is assigned to work with the family and student for the entire program.
“Welcoming an international high school student into your home is a transformative experience, for the student, the host family, and the community,” said Sherry Carpenter, executive director of AYUSA. “At AYUSA, we believe that by empowering and inspiring students from around the world to understand and respect global cultures, we can create a peaceful international community.”
Since 2003 more than 2000 U.S. families have hosted YES students in all 50 states. Less than four percent of the students who apply to the YES program are accepted. AYUSA YES students come from the following countries: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Gaza, Israel (Arab Communities), Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Tunisia, West Bank, and Yemen.
AYUSA facilitates several U.S. Department of State grant programs which offer scholarships to extraordinary student leaders from other countries. In addition to the YES Program, AYUSA also runs the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) for high school students from countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union, and the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX) which offers a direct exchange program between American and German high school students.
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program was established in October 2002 and is a U.S. Department of State sponsored program that provides scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend an academic year in the U.S. Students live with American host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. AYUSA is one of the partner organizations that pairs YES students with U.S. host families.
AYUSA has been a member of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) for more than 25 years – since its foundation. CSIET evaluates U.S.-based youth exchange programs so that students, families and schools can identify inbound and outbound reputable exchange organizations.
For more information about hosting a foreign exchange student, or to meet prospective students, please visit AYUSA’s website at http://www.ayusa.org.
AYUSA Global Youth Exchange is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 to promote global learning and leadership through foreign exchange, study abroad and leadership programs for high school students from the US and around the world. In addition, AYUSA administers multiple high profile grant programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. AYUSA is part of the Intrax Cultural Exchange family of organizations devoted to fostering international understanding through cultural exchange and educational programs, with operations in more than 80 countries worldwide.