About 19 young high-flyers from primarily former Soviet block countries are hoping to spend next school year in the Fresno area through a competitive U.S. State Department exchange program.
But there’s a catch: only one family in Fresno has volunteered to host a teen, leaving the remaining 18 in limbo.
The program is free to the students and 100% merit-based. The students undergo rigorous testing including English proficiency assessments and go through several interviews and essay contests. Last year, only 800 students out of 40,000 applicants were picked.
“They are looking for future leaders, it’s a public diplomacy type thing,” said Joshua Marple, one of the coordinators for the nonprofit World Link, which runs the program. “They are bringing these kids over to give them a U.S. experience and they figure when they go home, they are someday probably going to be in leadership positions.”
The U.S. State Department chips in for the students’ plane tickets, but host families are expected to cover the costs of taking on an extra 16 or 17-year-old for ten months.
But now it’s crunch time. The students are supposed to arrive in August and the program coordinators are still waiting for families to volunteer.
“They will not have their plane tickets until they get placed, but they have been accepted into the program and gone through all the testing,” said Amanda Martella, also a World Link coordinator. “They’ve done everything they have to do, so they’re basically waiting for their phone call to say they’ve found a host family.”
Who can host? Single people and couples (with or without children) in Fresno and Clovis.
Want more information? Contact Joshua Marple and Amanda Martella at (559) 469-7996.