A group of Japanese youths and their chaperones have been in this area since July 23. They gathered at Smith Corners Church in Austintown for a picnic last week and a chance to see each other and meet host families.
The visitors are a fraction of 85 students who are in Ohio families as part of the Labo International Exchange program, which has carried on each summer for more than 50 years. The program allows the children to live in a ''real American family'' as a way to expand their English language skills and learn from children of the same age.
Chaperones also live with families as a way to be available to the children and help with homesickness, health issues and language barriers.
Photos Special to the Town Crier
Chaperone Miho Ishikawa; Nathan Eastman, host of chaperone; chaperone Kenta Ishikawa, Satoski Nishiguchi, guest of Adam Schrock of Canfield; Taichi Nakasoko, guest of Nick Martinelliof Berlin Center, were among the Japanese students and American chaperones to attend a picnic last week before the kids return to Japan. Missing from photo are Frankie Heffiner of Salem and guest Himari Yamamoto, as well as Mackenzie Daub of New Waterford and guest Utano Yajima.
During their time in Ohio, each family chooses the activities and experiences they want for their new family guest, so each youth could have a unique adventure compared to his or her peers.
Ohio 4-H is the host agency for this state, coordinated by Ohio State University Extension specialist Mary Lynn Thalheimer, and locally by Gretchen Kalany and Gary Reel. The students will leave on Aug. 18 and be back in Japanese schools almost immediately.