Rotary Club discusses youth exchange program

Several guests were on hand at the Sweetwater Rotary Club meeting held on Monday, Feb. 28 at the Texas State Technical College banquet room. The meeting held a double purpose in raising funds for the End Polio campaign spearheaded by Rotary International and highlighting the Rotary Youth Exchange program with a Powerpoint presentation from Jack Campbell.Campbell hails from Midland and is the Rotary District 5730 Chairman of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. He went through a detailed description of what the Youth Exchange program entails for both the student participants and the families who benefit from the opportunity in various countries around the globe.The "once in a lifetime" experience is a district-to-district program within the Rotary. Approximately 9,000 students take part each year, and in 2005-06, 78 countries were involved in the Youth Exchange.Students beginning at age 15 are eligible to participate. The program is operated by volunteers as part of the Rotary's commitment to international and community service.Two types of terms are offered: long term and short term. A short term exchange is a homestay between two families in which the participants are of the same gender and age. Typically, no schooling is involved due to the span of the exchange โ€” anywhere from four to six weeks. The cut off age for a short term exchange is 24, and no student visas are required. This type of exchange helps students determine if he would be a strong candidate for a long term exchange.A long term exchange is for high school students that will spend a year learning the language and discovering the culture in another country, as well as developing skills and maturity. This exchange format helps to bring the world to the local community through friendship and promotes the Rotary's goal of world peace and understanding one person, one exchange at a time.Campbell even offered his own personal experience in participating in the Youth Exchange. His family has hosted students from India and Germany and boasted the great learning benefits that not only impacted him, but his family as well.The Rotary Youth Exchange has the main focus of letting kids experience life around the world. Because of the global outreach, various regulators are in effect such as the Rotary International Certification and the US Departments of State, Homeland Security and Immigration.Also being implemented are the SCRYE (South Central Rotary Youth Exchange) and the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, or CSIET. The SCIET is accredited for listing and is necessary for any exchange participant (a non-graduate) to be involved in UIL events such as athletics or choir.While the opportunity seems to be a promising one, potential exchange students must endure a difficult selection process. Long term students must be no older than 18 1/2 years old upon arrival in their new host country. Various orientations must be met as well, such as speaking English well. The student must be anxious and is expected to learn the language, discover the new culture, represent her country, become part of the host family and be a Rotary Ambassador.At the other end of the Youth Exchange Program is the host homes. Inbound host home requirements include having at least two host families and can be Rotary or non-Rotary participants. The family partners with one club counselor โ€” in order to participate in orientation and must have weekly contact โ€” as he is the first contact for both the family and the student. The student must be invited to attend a local Rotary club meeting, and a monetary investment of about $1,800 a year must be made. However, the financial aspect is certainly outweighed by the chance to make a difference in a young person's life.Outbound host homes must participate in an interview with the potential student, in which District 5730 hopes to hold in November in Lubbock. A club counselor is also partnered with the outbound participants, and the student must be invited to give a presentation at the local Rotary club meeting. The monetary investment from this aspect only ranges at about $300.Throughout the Youth Exchange, a variety of resources are on hand. Training is offered for the club counselor and host family, and a 16-person committee heads up the district support system. Also available is the Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) and Youth Protection Officer (YPO). A treasurer and personnel in regards to crisis, media and the Rotary district are also part of the resources.The students who come to take part in the Youth Exchange, however, are entertained in various ways. Orientation, attending a Texas Tech football game, trips to Austin and a ski resort, as well as the Rattlesnake Round-Up and the Rotary District Conference are some of the activities the students enjoy. Campbell concluded his presentation by showing a video that was made by former Youth Exchange students.