INFORMATION FOR THE CLUB
Rotary clubs that participate in the long-term Youth Exchange program are demonstrating their commitment to International Service in one of the best, most direct, most meaningful, and most fun ways possible. Clubs will seek out and sponsor local (outbound) students to spend a year overseas in a remarkable, life-changing experience, and will host one or more foreign (inbound) students for a year in your community.
Under the leadership of a club Youth Exchange Officer, Rotarians visit high schools and/or local community organizations to tell teenagers about the opportunities in the Youth Exchange program, meet with interested students and their parents, and interview the students to determine their suitability for the program. Clubs are urged to invite their outbound candidates to one or more Rotary meetings before the student leaves, to help them learn more about Rotary and the sponsoring club. Outbound students should be given a few club banners to exchange overseas.
For the inbound students, the club is responsible for finding host families and arranging for schooling, in addition to providing the student with a monthly allowance (see below). Ideally, there should be three or four different host families through the year, so the student gets to enjoy a variety of experiences, several families get to enjoy the student, and no one family is over-burdened. The club must get approval from a local high school for the student's enrollment there, and that information, along with the identity of the first host family, must be submitted to the District YE Committee at least three months before the student's arrival.
The host club must also designate one of its members to serve as the inbound student's Counselor, to meet with the student on a regular basis, keep on top of the student's progress through the year, help resolve problems, and provide a direct link to the Rotary club. The Counselor can be the Youth Exchange Officer or a different member, but the Counselor cannot be the current host parent.
Host clubs should try to bring their inbounds to at least one Rotary meeting each month, so as many members as possible can meet the student. It's also a great idea to involve the student in club activities, whether they are community service efforts, social events, or whatever. These events allow the student to meet more Rotarians, and vice versa, opening up wonderful opportunities for future times together and greater international understanding.
Rotary's Short-Term exchange program offers teenagers a unique opportunity to spend part of a vacation with a family in another country, and then share an equal time here with a foreign teenage guest. The program is a family-to-family exchange, usually during the summer months when school is not in session.
Clubs wishing to offer this program in their communities need only to find students and families who wish to participate. The club then interviews the students and parents, and, if they are acceptable candidates, forwards their applications on to the District YE Committee. As with long-term students, it's a nice idea to invite the outbound student and parents to a Rotary meeting, to get to know the members and gain an understanding about the club and the organization as a whole.
Not very much at all, actually. A few club banners and one or two meals as guests of the club is all that's required.
As part of the Youth Exchange program, Rotary Clubs are required to provide a monthly allowance to long-term exchange students. This is specified on the Guarantee Form (part of the student's application), and is mandated by the US State Department for issuance of student visas. The required monthly allowance is determined by each club. This money is paid directly to the students, and is a valid use of charitable Rotary funds. There may be additional hosting costs determined by the District Youth Exchange Committee. Check with your District for further costs to Host.
If you think that most teenagers could not be exchange students, and could not handle the challenges of a new language, people, and culture, well, you're absolutely correct! But there are exceptional students in every school who would be perfect for this program, and would jump at the chance to take part, if only they knew about it. So the first step is to get into the schools and talk to the kids!
One good place to start is with your local Interact Club. There you have students who already have some knowledge about Rotary (or they should, anyway), and the faculty member who sponsors the Interact Club should be more than open to a speaker from Rotary. But limiting the audience to Interact members excludes other local students, and that's something you don't want to do. We have found that foreign language teachers are usually very receptive to Rotary representatives talking to their students about the YE program, and we've been very successful following that route.
Your District Youth Exchange Committee is more than willing to help. They have experience talking to teenagers, and can explain all the details of the program in a way that will excite, rather than bore, them. Contact your District YE Chairperson for help - you'll be surprised at how many students in your own community would love to spend a year overseas.
A good first step is to refer them to this website (www.exchangestudent.org), where they can find plenty of information - just like you're doing right now. It's important for the club Youth Exchange Officer to meet with the student and his/her family to get a handle on their qualifications and motivation, and to answer the many questions they may have. If the YEO is new to the position, or would like some help, just contact the District YE Committee - they should be happy to make someone available to assist. Once you've met the student and decided that your club will sponsor him/her, then work with the candidate to complete the application form and make sure it is forwarded on to the District YE Committee in advance of the annual deadline.
Our local high school soccer coach wants us to help bring in a star player as an exchange student. How do we do that?
You probably already guessed the answer to this one. We don't. Rotary does not put its stamp on exchanges that are not the product of regular Rotary Youth Exchange procedures. A student in another country must apply through their local Rotary Club, be selected and endorsed by the local district, and be recommended by the district to us. It is not the purpose of this program to help a soccer coach win a league championship. Our goals are much more important - to build international friendships, break down barriers and stereotypes, and create understanding that transcends political boundaries. Sorry, coach, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Do host families have to be Rotarians?
Absolutely not. Though some clubs prefer to have the first family be a Rotary family, perhaps to cement the relationship with the club, there is no requirement that all or any of the host families be Rotary members. In fact, host families, like families of outbounds, often discover Rotary because of this program, and ultimately join Rotary Clubs. But the important thing to remember is that any reputable family in your community is eligible to host a Rotary exchange student.
It's easy! Contact the Youth Exchange chairman in your district. Schedule one of the Youth Exchange committee members as a speaker for your club, and start talking about hosting an inbound student next year (those arrangements need to be made several months in advance, so it's never too early). Make plans to talk to your area high school students early in the fall, for the long-term program the following year. Invite an inbound student or former outbound student to speak at your club to help inspire the membership. And get ready for one of the most rewarding, most wonderful programs that Rotary has to offer. Welcome to Rotary Youth Exchange.