LHS Marks 50 Years Of Foreign Exchange Programs
Bonjour…Hola…Guten Tag…Buna Ziva…so many languages, so many ways to say hello!
Lakewood High School currently is recognizing its 50-year involvement with student exchange programs that have allowed our students to study abroad and that have brought students from all over the globe here. For many years, Lakewood students participated in the American Field Service exchange program, and for the last decade LHS been involved with the Rotary Exchange program, which is supported by Rotary International in 30 countries, including Germany, Brazil and France.
The LHS tradition of participating in exchange programs began with Biff Folberth ’62, who was the first Lakewood High School student to study abroad. Folberth, now a member of the Lakewood Alumni Foundation Board of Trustees, took part in the AFS program and traveled to the Netherlands in 1961. Carrying on the exchange tradition at LHS is alumni and retired guidance counselor Marty Harris, who serves as Chairperson of International Service. The 2011-2012 exchange program will see the following LHS students studying abroad: Natasha Corrigan (Belgium), Eric Davis, Haley McGinty, Mikaela Tardivo and Mary Wallace (Brazil), Hallie Hamilton (France), Deven Middleton, Emma Larson and Melissa Richardson (Germany) and Lisa Kowalski (Iceland).
Harris said, “I feel the value of the exchange is to promote international friendship and understanding, to provide opportunities for education around the world, and to give youth educational and social opportunities that enrich them as future citizens. They return with increased confidence and academic enrichment as well as having a very inexpensive worldly experience.”
As part of the acceptance process, Harris explained, prospective students complete a questionnaire that lists all of the potential host countries. Students must indicate 'yes' or 'no' for each country, and then rank their first four choices, and then Rotary attempts to honor the choices. Interviews are traditionally done in the fall with acceptances occurring in December and countries decided in January. Students spend approximately 10 months abroad.
The old adage “rules are made to be broken” does not pertain to Rotary Exchange Students. A no drinking, driving, heavy dating or drug consumption policy is strictly enforced. Students are sent home if infractions are committed. Such rules for exchange students visiting the United States are equally enforced. As for the possible language barrier, some countries require students to study the language for two years before arriving.
For example, junior Hallie Hamilton is scheduled to go to France (her first choice) with some knowledge of the language. Senior Mackenzie Paul, on the other hand, embarked to Poland without the benefit of speaking Polish. LHS offers exchange students not fluent in English an “English as a Second Language” class to help them acclimate.
On this side of the exchange, acclimating foreign exchange students to family and school life in Lakewood is a top priority. Ensuring a smooth transition requires placing students with local families, ideally with children involved in the school system and community activities. Most students traveling abroad attend school in their host country, receiving high school credits for their grades. Fifteen is the youngest age for a student to be considered for the exchange program, while occasionally a student chooses to wait until after graduation to participate.
The bond between exchange students and their host families can be lifelong. Begun back in 2003, the relationship that was forged between Lakewood host family, the Aylwards, and Brazil exchange student Joachim continues to this day. Holiday and birthday greetings are still exchanged between families with the bond morphing into a type of a “family cousin” relationship. Kevin Aylward said he recalls Joachim’s introduction to the American slang expression “wuzzup” with his new Lakewood friends and his ability to adapt because of their acceptance. The Aylward family also was able to spend time with Joachim’s sister, who was a foreign exchange student in Chicago.
With ever-expanding technological breakthroughs such as Skype and Facebook, exchange students can communicate with friends and family on a regular basis. Connor Meehan, a recent LHS Rotary exchange student, emailed his heartfelt and informative “Chronicles from Brazil” documenting his activities and adventures while traveling abroad.