AFS Intercultural Programs, formerly known as American Field Service, has aligned several local families who are generously opening their homes, lives and hearts to exchange students who will arrive in August and attend local schools.
One such home is that of Terri Windsor of Poland, whose family will be welcoming Valentin from Austria. She expects Valentin to spend a great deal of time with her nephews and niece. He will be attending New Springfield High School. In addition to hosting a student, Windsor said she will also act as liaison for two local families.
“We have a very good support group,” she said, “You can contact us 24 hours a day.”
Benefitting from that support are the host families of Chris and Bob Gabrick and their children Sarah and Joshua of New Springfield, who will welcome Catalina from Chile; Marney Broderick and her son Michael, of Canfield, who will host Nicholas from Chile; and Brad Smith of Boardman, who will host Dario from Italy.
Working with the families, Windsor heads the Northeast Ohio Area Team, acting as coordinator for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. She is an AFS returnee herself, having visited Norway in 1979 as a Poland High School senior. According to Windsor, PSHS actually offered an AFS Club at that time.
Recalling her experience as scary at first, Windsor said she returned home having learned a different culture. For a time, kept in touch with her host family. She said that thanks to modern technology, she has made contact via Facebook with her former host family after 20 years, and has no intention of letting it slip away this time.
“It was a different AFS,” said Windsor of the program she knew as a student more than 30 years ago. She explained that when she left, she knew little more than that she was going to Norway. Today, Windsor says that a great deal of time and effort goes into the process of matching a student with a family that will best provide a pleasing exchange experience, and then preparing both the family and the student accordingly.
Despite the fact that the trip is still several weeks away, Windsor said that social media technology is keeping the students and families in contact as they chat regularly online. They are often busily organizing picnics and other events well in advance.
According to Windsor, the Northeast Ohio Area Team abides by the guidelines from AFS, keeping them in compliance with US State Department regulations governing high school foreign exchange programs. The team is actively seeking families in the Poland, Canfield, Struthers and Lowellville areas interested in hosting a student, from whom she said there are many to choose.
Windsor is able to speak from the experiences of the exchange student, host and now coordinator for the programs. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Pictured are students who traveled with AFS for the 2010/2011 school year, staying in the Cleveland and surrounding areas.