Talk to Jay Baker of Mayville about hosting an exchange student and he can't say enough to encourage you to "just do it. You won't regret it."
The Westfield/Mayville Rotary Club is looking for two, three or four families in the Chautauqua Lake School District to serve as host families for the club's 2013-14 school year foreign exchange student, according to Crystal Schrantz, the club's Youth Exchange Committee chair.
"We hope to identify four host families so that the exchange student can experience a variety of environments during his or her year with us," she said. "Ideally, a host family would have the exchange student for 10 weeks. However, we can get by with only two host families if necessary."
Omar from Mexico brought much information about other countries to Mackenzi Harrington (left) and her mother, Adele Harrington, while they gave him a home. Westfield/Mayville Rotary Club now is looking for families in the Chautauqua Lake Central School District to host exchange students for the 2013-14 school year.
The host families "adopt" the exchange student and often develop a bond with the student that can last for decades.
Proof of that also comes from Baker, whose family hosted two students, one from France, another from Brazil. "I now have two more sons who keep in touch with me," he emphasized, noting that he and wife Sharon have one daughter and three sons of their own.
The "son" from Brazil, Silvio, not only spent a year in Chautauqua County, but he has returned to become a student at Mercyhurst College in Erie. Baker keeps in touch with him regularly.
Another example of hosting an exchange student comes from Rotarian Adele Harrington of Westfield. Omar from Mexico stayed with the family and "enriched our life greatly," she said. As a result of Omar meeting other exchange students while visiting the Harringtons, she said, "We learned so much about other countries."
Schrantz noted, too, that "people often think that only families with children of the same age as the exchange student can apply to become a host family. But actually, many exchange students are placed with families who have younger or older children, families with no children, empty-nesters and even retired couples."
Harrington's daughter, Mackenzi Habig, who loved having an exchange "brother," said it best: "I just saw life through new eyes." Adding to that remark, Mrs. Harrington emphasized, "We would do it again."
"We've had two great experiences with no downside," said Baker. "I can't say enough good things about Rotary, and hosting an exchange student is a life-changing experience, both for the kids as well as people on the other end."
"Potential host families are screened by the Rotary Club to ensure the exchange is beneficial to all concerned," Schrantz added. For more information or to submit a Host Family Application, contact Schrantz at the Westfield Key Bank at 326-4611.
Baker strongly recommends becoming an exchange host family and emphasized, "You won't regret this life-changing experience."