Bringing the world home: Stanley Center seeks host families
by Margaret Hurlbert
April 04, 2022

MUSCATINE, Iowa–As the world opens up and international travel resumes as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes in many places, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security invites families in Muscatine to open their homes to exchange students. “Cultural exchange programs are a proven pathway to grow global awareness and understanding,” explained Stanley Center Program Officer for Global Education Krista Regennitter. This spring, Regennitter invites anyone interested in hosting an exchange student to learn more about opportunities available through partner organizations. “Our goal is to help reignite the spark of exchange in Muscatine, which has a long history with such programs, through collaboration with Muscatine Community School District, AFS-USA Intercultural Programs, and the Muscatine Rotary Club,” she said.

After the World Wars, a group of ambulance drivers came together with the mission of fostering peace and discouraging future wars through the sharing of different cultures. Their vision created American Field Service International and many country specific organizations, including American Field Service-USA, or AFS-USA. For 75 years, AFS has provided opportunities for high school students in member countries to stay with host families in any other participating country they would like to.

Since forming a relationship with the Stanley Center, they have started looking into bringing students to Muscatine too. “It’s been really exciting to work alongside the Stanley Center and working with the teachers through global competency training to establish a presence in Muscatine,” shared AFS-USA Director of Education and External Outreach Jill Woerner.

Typically, AFS-USA places students with host families for a full academic year (August through June) or occasionally for just a semester. Any sort of family structure, whether a two parent household, single parent family, or couple without children, may host, so long as they have an interest in other cultures, can provide for a student’s basic needs, and will treat them like a family member, not a guest. “We’re looking for families who are curious about other cultures and willing to both learn and share with their students,” emphasized Woerner.

Rotary International has organized international exchanges for decades, and in the past, Muscatine Rotary has both brought students to Muscatine and helped local students study abroad. This year, Muscatine Rotary Youth Services Chair Mike Wedell hopes to start up exchanges again. As someone whose family hosted an exchange student during his youth, he finds that the opportunity can help people, especially children and teens, see the world through a new lens and also develop a better understanding of their own culture. “It’s a fabulous opportunity to open their eyes to the world out there,” he enthused.

If hosting an exchange student appeals to you, Regennitter encourages you to contact her to explore the application process either by calling her at 563-299-3602 or emailing her at [email protected]

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