Exchange students in need of homes

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Sue Sexe, local coordinator for AIFS, is urging Beloiters to consider hosting a foreign exchange student. It's getting more challenging to find host families for foreign students in Beloit.

Area school districts and study abroad organizations are looking for a few good host families.

Although Beloit Turner High Schoolís foreign exchange program has been flourishing for years, no one has come forward to house a foreign student this fall, according to Beth Brusberg, Turner High and Middle School family and consumer education instructor and foreign exchange student adviser.

Brusberg said she doesnít know if itís because of the economy or other reasons. However, she wanted to let people know that the students from other countries who come to the area are usually well accepted into their schools and bring their own spending money. In the 2012-2013 school year there were two foreign exchange students at Turner.

This year Brusberg has undertaken a letter campaign, targeting potential families of juniors and seniors, but she hasnít gotten any responses. Although the number at Turner is capped at two because of space concerns, those at the school like to have at least one student because of the educational and cultural opportunities it can provide the student body.

Those who live in the School District of Beloit Turner are encouraged to call 608-364-6370 if they are interested in hosting students that go to Turner. Singles, young couples as well as older or same-sex couples that pass a background check may apply as there is no discrimination.

At Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) there were three exchange students last year, but only one so far for this fall, according to program adviser Pat Hill.

ďIt is extremely difficult finding host families,Ē he said.

Sue Sexe, local coordinator for American Institute for Foreign Study Foundationís (AIFS) Academic Year in America (AYA) Program, has six host families signed up to take exchange students in Orfordville and northward and even at Hononegah High School, but hasnít been able to find any interested host families in Beloit. Sexe is hosting two exchange students, but they will be attending Parker High School as she lives on Townline Road between Beloit and Janesville.

Although they canít all come to Beloit, Sexe said she has two ideal students she hopes will have the opportunity to experience BMHS. The girl from Thailand loves helping around the house, watching movies, planting trees and said she works to get along with others and is cheerful. Sexe said she might be ideal for a low-key and older couple.

And the 17-year-old German boy she found likes to be on the move with basketball, track, running, baseball and more. He is an ambitious leader ideal for a sports loving and active family.

Although there were three foreign students last year at Beloit Memorial High School, there could be many more if more families were interested. Sexe urges people, from empty nesters to young couples and singles to learn more about it. The only initial requirement for hosts is they be at least 25 years old.

Although no one has come forward, Sexe said there are plenty of empty nesters who might make good host families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report, approximately 59 percent of American families have no children under the age of 18 living at home. That number has grown over the past 15 years from 36 million to a projected 46 million families in 2010.

Because Sexe said many people havenít given it much thought, sheís even going to be touting her AIFS students at the Farmerís Markets at a special booth.

The Academic Year in America (AYA) program brings international high school students, age 15 to 18-and-half to the United States to live with carefully screened and selected American host families for an academic semester or year. These young ambassadors attend the host familyís local high school and participate in their school and community lives.

There are a variety of exchange programs available. With AIFS interested host families can go online to www.academicyear.org. or contact Sexe at 608-563-1778. On the website people can search all the available placements countries around the world.

With a program like AIFS each student comes with his or her own health insurance and spending money. The only thing host families are required to provide is meals other than school lunch (which the students purchase) and board. Host families must provide a bed, although the student could share a bedroom with another same sex child in the home. A quiet place to study is also required.

ďA kitchen table is fine,Ē Sexe said.

Host families are eligible to receive a $50 a month tax deduction for a being in their home.

Families who arenít ready to commit to a whole year could do one semester or could agree to be a welcome family for a student for the first four to six weeks. However, Sexe noted that most welcome families stay on long term as most have a positive experience.

Having an exchange student not only helps the student, but provides a rich and rewarding cultural learning experience to the families they stay with. The students who are carefully screen and highly recommended by their teachers and employers, are often proven leaders and active volunteers in their communities. The students and their host families often become lifelong friends, with their host families sometimes visiting them in their country overseas.

Sexe still fondly remembers the German girl who lived with her family as a teen in 1979. Sexe still corresponds with her.

Sexe is thrilled with the two boys coming to stay with her and husband. Sheís already planning trips to Cave of the Mounds, Milton House, war re-enactments and more. To get acclimated to each other Sexe has been Skyping with her students and has already requested each to bring their favorite recipes to share with her family.

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