Introducing ... Exchange students look forward to American life
by BETTIE MARLOWE, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 25, 2010 | 2711 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Something extraordinary happens when people from another culture are welcomed into the ordinary life of America. That is what the Program of Academic Exchange is all about. Teenagers from some 40 countries are welcomed as “sons and daughters” to spend a school year (or semester) with an American family.

They will be accepted as students in high schools, enjoying activities with their classmates. They may participate in sports and theater, music or clubs and as a “family” member, rake the leaves or attend church.

In all, these visitors will learn what it really means to be an American as well as carry knowledge and abilities back to their home countries. At the same time, the American hosts learn a different culture and have the opportunity to understand another part of the world and its customs. The hard part of being a host family is saying “goodbye” to that “son” or “daughter” at the end of the school year.

Rebecca Whitmire is making that cultural exchange happen in Cleveland. She and her husband Chuck have three daughters: Jessica, Ashley (a Cleveland High School student) and Sydney (a Cleveland Middle School student). Whitmire is in real estate and also is a census taker. She used to do marketing, also.

Whitmire said she knows the joys of an exchange student program. At 17, she was an exchange student to Japan for the summer of 1977.

“That got me interested in traveling,” she confided. “And people in other countries are not all that different.”

She said she learned so much of the Asian culture such as “take a gift” and be courteous and polite first and always.

After she married, the Whitmires provided the host home for a girl from Germany and a boy from Switzerland.

“They became part of the family,” Whitmire said, “and we stayed in touch. We realy enjoyed it.”

These three students from Ukraine and Russia will be arriving Aug. 3, 7 and 10.

Since Cleveland High School already has its quota of cultural exchange students, the three will attend Walker Valley or Bradley Central high schools. The scholarship students say they are very excited to be here 10 months — through May — and are looking forward to their stay.

The host family agrees to the following (complete guidelines are covered in an orientation program and PAX Family Handbook):

— The student will have his or her own bed and adequate space to store his or her clothes and personal items and will be provided a desk and quiet place to study.

— The host family will provide three meals a day. However if lunch at school is an option, the student will use his spending money to buy it.

— The student will be accorded the same rules and privileges as other family members and enjoy the love and support of the family.

— The student may share a room with host sibling of the same sex with not the more than a four-year age difference.

— The host family will read and pay attention to the PAX policies and advice in the Family Handbook.

— In case of misunderstandings or concerns, the family will contact the local PAX coordinator. A student may be moved with two weeks needed to relocate.

— If student becomes ill, he or she is covered with full medical insurance.

PAX was founded in 1990 and is committed to facilitating crosscultural learning and thereby expanding international understanding. Exchange Visitor Programs are administered by the United States Department of State . The PAX program was designated an Exchange Visitor Program in 1993. PAX sponsored 115 Future Leaders Exchange and 10 Youth Exchange and Study students on its 2009-2010 academic year programs.

Qualified PAX students come from more than 40 countries. All are carefully screened and have three or more years of English study. Services provided by PAX include host family recruitment, interviewing and selection, school enrollment, arrival orientation and support and counseling during the year. Students return home after the semester or school year.

Any family and any age — with or without children — may be considered as host families. Phone Whitmire at 284-1388; the national office at (800) 555-6211; or visit for information on how to apply.

Anastasiya from Russia

Anastasiya, 17, is in the 11th grade. She has had 10 years of English and her GPA is A+. She is the daughter of Vitaliy, a businessman, and Anna, who is in education. She has a sister, Arina, 6.

The high school junior says her favorite interests are singing, dance, guitar, piano, drawing and journalism.

Having traveled to France, Norway and Finland, Anastasiya has been given a taste of her upcoming year. Noting the bond she formed with her French family after only two weeks, she said she can only imagine the bond she will form with her American family after spending a full year (10 months) with them.

A talented musician, she has been singing, playing the piano and the guitar for the last nine years. She is also an avid dancer with her favorite styles consisting of hoerograpy, modern dance, belly dances and hip-hop. She also states her interest in drawing, fashion design and modeling as well as academics. In school, she is focused on foreign languages, business and economics and hopes to become an international economist.

Olena from Ukraine

Olena, a petite 16-year-old, has had 11 years of English and has also studied French and German. She will be a junior in high school and has a GPA of A.

Her parents are Vasyl, a businessman, and Lyudmyla, an accountant. Her brother Vladik is 11.

Her interests include basketball, cycling, cooking, photography and drama.

Olena comes from a loving and supportive family. Although she is 4 years older than her brother, she really admires him and loves serving as his role model. She is involved in several different activities ranging from sports, theater, dancing and photography. In school, Olena is known for her creativity and intelligence.

“In group projects,” her teacher said, “Olena sows her leadership skills and easily lends her hand to others in hard situations.”

With a heavy interest in economics and foreign cultures, Olena hopes to connect these fields in her future endeavors. She is eager to bring Ukrainian and American cultures closer together and would also be thrilled to learn how to cook American meals.

Dilyaver from Ukraine

The son of a businessman, Server, and Akime, a director, 16-year-old Dilyaver would likely be a high school sophomore. He has had four years of English and his GPA is A. He is the grandson of Refika, 72, and has a brother, 10.

His favorite activities and interests are soccer, computers, jogging and boxing.

Dilya is enthusiastic and motivated. He is interested in learning more about different cultures. He said he can’t wait to interact with Americans and to see first-hand “their outgoing and friendly nature.”

Dilya enjoys studying math, English and computer science. His teacher noted his diligence in his coursework and his friendly disposition — qualities which will help him became a leader. He hopes during his year abroad he will find-tune these abilities. He enjoys staying active by boxing, playing soccer and jogging. The combination of is intelligence and respectful character are sure to help Dilya integrate into the American way of life.