By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor
The organization Education Travel and Culture is looking for community members willing to host a high-school student from another country during the upcoming school year.
ETC has had some students in Central Alabama in the past but never in Chilton County.
Host families need to commit for at least three months, however, five- and 10-month options are also available.
“With our organization, they have lots of levels of support,” Teresa Thompson, who is a senior field manager for Alabama and seven other states, said.
This includes a local coordinator and a field manager.
“We’ve got students from all over the world, about 15 different countries, that are eager to come here (and) just live like an American teen for one or two semesters,” Thompson said.
The organization is looking for host families as soon as possible since the school year in Chilton County starts Aug. 10. However, families can also sign up after this date.
“We like families who are eager to learn about another country because it is so much fun to share the cultures,” Thompson said. “… You end up making a lifelong friend. We hosted 12 students, and my son actually went back to Spain for a month with the student that we hosted over the summer. We became friends with his parents as well.”
Potential host families apply online and must pass a background check and home visit.
“Then, we try to match them with a family with similar interests,” Thompson said.
Host parents do not have to have children living at home to participate.
Thompson said all of the international students in the program speak English proficiently.
Host families are asked to provide room and board in a safe, loving environment. Thompson said exchange students participate in the host family’s normal activities, including helping out around the house.
Students bring their health insurance and spending money while staying with the family.
Serving as a host family can count as a volunteer opportunity, and ETC awards a Presidential Volunteer Service Award to a member of the host family.
The program also hosts events where exchange students in the program meet for activities.
“We have monthly student events,” Thompson said. “… We have events where they get to know the other families that are hosting and the exchange students all become friends. It is a great opportunity.”
Host family registration can be completed at edutrav.org.