Aspen Rotary Club seeks host families for youth exchange program
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What: Aspen Rotary Club Youth Exchange program informational meeting
When: Wednesday, April 6 at 6 p.m.
Where: Aspen Rotary Club Youth Exchange Officer Maurice Emmer’s house; 1220 Alta Vista Drive
Contact: Maurice Emmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 806 – 0592
Sixteen-year-old Margo Uhlrich of Nantes, France, had never been to the United States prior to her arrival in August.
The French exchange student’s sense of adventure, courage and desire to step out of her comfort zone made her the perfect candidate for Rotary International’s Youth Exchange program, said Rotary Club of Aspen youth exchange officer Maurice Emmer.
The program is looking for students who are interested in establishing that independence and self-exploration, he said.
The Rotary Club of Aspen is a chapter of Rotary International, a worldwide organization whose services address a wide variety of issues according to communities’ specific needs — from fighting disease to supporting education — with the goal of creating positive, lasting changes in communities throughout the world, according to its website.
Founded in 1905, Rotary International has reached more than 1.2 million members.
The Youth Exchange program is one of Rotary International’s many programs, drawing more than 8,000 students who study abroad for an academic year.
Throughout the course of the year, exchange students live with anywhere from one to three families who volunteer to host a student.
The most ideal situation is that each student lives with three families for three to four months each, Emmer said. The two main reasons for that are so it’s not too great a burden on any one family and so that students are exposed to a variety of lifestyles and personalities with the goal of enabling a more diverse and deeper understanding of that country.
“That’s the whole purpose of the program,” Emmer said. “To promote international understanding at an early age.”
But the benefits of Rotary International’s Youth Exchange program extend beyond international understanding, said Emmer and Melanie Doyle, one of Aspen’s two outbound exchange students.
Aside from learning about the world, the Aspen native said she’s learned a lot about herself.
“It’s not easy to get up and leave your life and everything you know to move to a country where you know nothing at all,” Doyle said, adding that the experience has changed her life forever. “There are many challenges, but every one of them is worth it.”
The Rotary Club of Aspen — which has exchange agreements with Rotary clubs throughout most European and Latin American countries as well as some in Asia — is working to increase its local outreach to find families who are willing to host foreign-exchange students.
“Imagine the self-confidence that it bestows on you,” Emmer said. “Every student that comes back from this program says, ‘This totally changed my life.’”
In an effort to inform the community on what this role entails, the club will host an informational meeting at Emmer’s house — 1220 Alta Vista Drive — on April 6.
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