WATERLOO –The Rotary Youth Exchange Program has enriched the lives of not only youth around the world but also Waterloo youth and club members.
“The Youth Exchange Program is a great opportunity for youth to learn about other cultures and way of life,” said Alice Burton, the Waterloo Youth Exchange coordinator. And club members’ lives have been enriched, too, as members serve as host families and exchange students do presentations at club meetings.
This year, three teens are participating in the Waterloo program. Ashley Ross of Waterloo is preparing to leave for a year in France, Leila Pollheimer of Austria has come to Waterloo as a summer exchange student, and her host family sister, Candice Tillman of Waterloo has returned with her as a summer exchange student to Austria.
“This has been a dream come true,” Leila said, as she described her visit to all of the Finger Lakes and Niagara Falls at a recent club meeting.
Exchange students have become lifelong friends for many host families. Club President Jane Shaffer recalled visiting Valencia, Spain, to attend the wedding of Maria Poveda, one of several exchange students her family hosted. “Waterloo Youth Exchange Program makes the world a smaller, friendlier place,” Shaffer said.
Rotarian Coreen Lowry agreed. Her family hosted Tia Rahkonen of Sweden in 2012. “I loved her,” Lowry said “She truly became a part of our family, She made us aware that although there are so many different cultures in the world, we are all alike in purpose and goals. She inspired us to go and see and do more, and appreciate there’s so much beauty in the world.,” Getting to know Tia also inspired Lowry’s daughter, Calista. to become a Youth Exchange student. Calista spend last year in Switzerland.
“My exchange year opened me to so many new opportunities and experiences. It helped me mature,” Calista Lowry said. “When you are away from your parents and everything you know, you have to mature and find yourself as a person.”
She said her exchange year was “truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I loved every minute of it.”
The Rotary Youth Exchange program is open to students younger than 18 who pass an interview. Exchange programs can be for a full year or a summer exchange during which a student come to the States to stay with a specific family for three weeks and a member of that family returns to the exchange student’s home country for a few weeks.
For more information on Rotary Youth Exchange programs, contact Alice Burton at Aliceburton7120Rotary@gmail.com
Waterloo Rotary meets every Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Quality Inn. New members are always welcome.