Rene Hyde  -  Rotary Youth Exchange Programs
Renée Hyde, Rotarian from Windsor, gave a detailed presentation on youth exchange programs within Rotary District 5130. Her Club has been very active in this program and she has a deep passion for this type of outreach by Rotary.
There are 2 types of exchanges that are offered. One is called a short-term exchange and usually takes place during the summer months and is truly an “exchange” in which families are paired in this country and in a foreign country and a student is literally “exchange” between families. These typically last 2-6 weeks and usually occur during the summertime. Their purpose is to introduce students to a different culture and to develop a different perspective on the world. Many of these short-term exchange students ultimately become long-term exchange students.
Long-term exchanges typically involve an entire academic year, is lasting anywhere from 10-12 months. They are not to be considered “vacations” as the students are intensely immersed in their host countries culture, language and educational institutions. Students participating in these programs return home feeling that they have actually left a second home in their foreign country and require some degree of reorientation to American cultural life. While in the foreign country in addition to making friends, they learn the language, learn a greater awareness of world events and cultures, and become more capable of being good citizens with a higher level of understanding of the issues that are present within the world. Because of this enrichment, they are viewed favorably by college admission panels as well as employers because of the breadth of their knowledge and experience gained through this program.
The students coming to this country are hosted for 3-4 months at a time with various families. During that period of time they learn what America is about, learn the language, and also make new friends. They return home with the same enrichment that our students gain from being in a foreign country.
District 5130 has a very seasoned staff of Rotarians that help facilitate programs. If our Club is interested in pursuing either a short-term or long-term exchange program the process needs to start with “advertising” at the school level through various Clubs, language classes, etc. that opportunities are available. Students need to make a formal application that is reviewed at the Club as well as District levels, and then orientation begins. Host families need to be recruited and there are numerous resources available at the District level to help with that process. Hosting is usually shared between 2-3 families, usually for periods of time lasting no more than 3-4 months during the year-long program. It is not necessary that the host family have children the same age as the student living within their home. Numerous other resources are available within the Rotary family for short term hosting should the formal host family have an activity that was not deemed appropriate for their student.
Overall, the program is ideal for the goals of Rotary: to produce world understanding, peace and awareness. How better to start the process than with children who then become wise adults. René encouraged our Youth Services Committee to pursue developing such a program during the course of this year with hopes that we may be able to establish an exchange program, either short-term or long-term, next Rotary year. In the past, our Club has started too late in the year to have this be meaningful for the given Rotary year, thus the need to begin planning now.
At the conclusion of representation, the Club honored her with a $25 donation to the Food Pantry in Healdsburg. Members Ed Smith, Doug Pile or Andy Esquivel can be contacted for further details about participation in this program