FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Enrollment is currently underway to find host families for foreign exchange students for the 2021-2022 school year.
Every year PAX, or Program of Academic Exchange, is responsible for placing hundreds of students in host family homes across the U.S. With borders and countries reopening after more than a year of COVID-19, the organization is looking for families to volunteer to host students.
The high school-age foreign exchange students spend anywhere from one semester to a whole school year with their families in America and become part of the family, not just a roommate. According to PAX’s website, high school exchange students are expected to adapt to their host family’s lifestyle, respect and uphold house rules, participate in family activities, and pitch in with chores.
Sheri Jackson and her two daughters, Casey and Cheyanne signed up for the PAX program two years ago after being a referral for a friend. The family was then paired with Mette-Marit Rehemets, from Estonia, and the connection was instant.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said PAX parent Sheri Jackson. “She came in. She fit right in with the family.”
“She fit like a glove,” said Cheyanne Jackson. “It was like getting another sister.”
“It was a lot of fun learning what they do back in their county,” Casey Jackson said. “Hearing their accents and getting to know them is cool.”
For exchange student Mette-Marit the feeling was mutual.
“I feel like my favorite experience was the whole exchange year,” said Mette-Marit Rehemets. “Just learning from you guys, Americans on how you do the same things but in different ways.”
During their time together, the Jackson’s and Mette-Marit went Trick-or-Treating, made Christmas cookies, rode on a school bus, and ate lots of candy corn. Other area host families also joined in on activities.
Sheri Jackson said the local schools and community embraced the students and made the experience that much more meaningful. After her experience as a host mom, Sheri Jackson is now a PAX coordinator in Fort Wayne.
“It was a super fun experience,” Sheri Jackson said. “You gain a son or daughter literally.”
Anyone who would like to host can apply. Hosts will need to pass a background check and give three references to PAX. When applying to host, families will have a choice on which student to bring into their family.
Enrollment for the next school year is currently underway. Students will be tested several times for COVID before coming over and are given an allowance for toiletries and other items.
If you are inserting to becoming a host family you can reach out to Sheri at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the PAX-Northeast Indiana/Northwest Ohio Facebook page. If you are not from the Fort Wayne area, Sheri says she can connect you to a coordinator in your area.