ELIZABETH HERMANN: Helping achieve diversity in rural schools
Nearly everyone will agree that tolerance and diversity are all-American ideals. This country was founded on principles of tolerance and the backs and brains of diverse peoples. But assuming our children will automatically take this to heart in everyday life is a leap of faith.
Media are so focused on conflict that young people who take so much from video, be it TV or Internet, may overlook the commonalities that hold us all together.
How can we overcome this? Encourage direct interaction with people of other countries and cultures. Play sports together, go fishing, and maybe play in the high school band together. That is no exaggeration or pipe dream.
All families have to do is host an international exchange student. You can choose from the dozens of students available, ages 15-18, from Europe, South America and Asia with varied interests, religions and cultural backgrounds to help ensure they will be a good fit with you and your family.
The commitment is actually minimal; you must provide housing (students can share a room) and meals. They come with their own health insurance and spending money. A nurturing family is the environment their parents hope for. Nontraditional families, empty nesters and singles can be eligible to host. Marion Center High School has been a very accepting place, year after year, for students from Germany, France, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan.
Our family and others in the school district have benefited more than we can say. A 16-year-old will rarely say “I learned so much at school today.” But, if they sit across the lunch table with a student from Serbia, they will surely learn something. A special perk is the usual “return of hospitality invitation” to visit their family in their home country. Our older daughter had the opportunity to take advantage of this while studying abroad in France.
Currently there are more than 150 high school students hoping to spend the 2013/14 school year in the U.S. For more information on how to host, contact me at (724) 397-9353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.