Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Education

Perrysburg schools promote foreign exchange program

Erica Scharer of Ottawa Hills has hosted three foreign exchange students over the past few years, and she’s not done.

“I’ll do it again,” Ms. Scharer said. “It’s been a great experience with all three of them ... a great experience for our family as we learn about ourselves as we grow as people and learn more about the world.”

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Erica Scharer, 47, of Ottawa Hills and Djimmer Riemersma, 17, of Vries, Netherlands, chat before the start of a meeting Tuesday at Perrysburg High School for Toledo-area families who are interested in hosting foreign exchange students. Ms. Scharer is hosting him at her home.

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Ms. Scharer was one of about 30 people at Perrysburg High School for a meeting it hosted Tuesday for Toledo-area families interested in hosting foreign exchange students.

The goal was to drum up interest in hosting exchange students and give attending families a chance to preview students who are coming to the United States and identify those they might like to host, according to organizers.

Djimmer Riemersma, 17, of Vries, the Netherlands, who is attending Ottawa Hills High School while Ms. Scharer and her family host him this school year, shared his feelings.

“It’s been working out great,” young Riemersma said. “I am having a lot of fun, and I love my new school. ... I really wanted to go to a real American high school and experience a different culture.”

Attendees heard a brief presentation from Michael Short, Perrysburg High School’s principal, who — together with his wife and two sons — has hosted five exchange students since 2009. Also on hand were representatives from a half-dozen student-exchange organizations that select future exchange students for area families and schools this time of year.

Mr. Short said Perrysburg families and his school district are hosting four students this school year: two from Thailand, one from Russia, and one from Slovenia. That’s one more than usual for Perrysburg, he added.

He has been a host parent through AFS-USA intercultural student exchange programs for American and foreign students. That organization usually places about 20 students annually in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, he said.

“Every organization is always looking for more families to host,” Mr. Short said. “I am hoping that hosting this event will allow families, schools, and organizations to have plans made early rather than struggling at the beginning of the school year.”

Host families are expected to treat exchange students as they would blood relatives, according to a written statement by Perrysburg Schools.

The host families’ role is to put the students up in their homes for a school year, provide meals, and help them get active in the family, school, church, community, and sports, according to the statement. During the school year, exchange organization representatives check on the students and their respective families regularly and offer advice when needed.

“Hosting is a great experience, being immersed for a school year in your house with someone who becomes part of your family,” Mr. Short said. “You really don’t change what you are doing. It’s another child in your home and you treat them as your own children.”

Contact Mike Sigov at sigov@theblade.com419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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