A cultural exchange: Host families make a difference in student success

March, 2017 Posted in Community
Sandra Wang & English teacher Bruce Schmidkofer

Sandra Wang studies with English teacher Bruce Schmidlkofer.

By Mary Owen

Sandra Wang will graduate from Regis High School in June.

“This is Sandra’s second year at Regis,” said Mike Bauer, the school’s exchange coordinator. “Her second year has been even better than her first as she has found a really nice family who made her part of their family.”

Wang told Bauer her first year was hard until she started making friends by participating in cheerleading. This year, however, she blossomed, Bauer said.

“Sandra was selected as a homecoming princess,” he said. “She has done very well in her classes, and has added much to Regis.”

Wang, who comes from China, is just one of a dozen foreign students attending Regis this year, he said.

“Among the benefits to the school and community are a chance to connect our students, our families, and families from the broader Santiam Canyon Area with a different culture and to build strong and lasting relationships,” Bauer said. “Another is to expose our students to the world outside the school and community.

“Prior to 1999, we only had an occasional student from Europe, a couple from South America, and a few from Japan,” Bauer said. “We accepted our first Japanese students from what was then Azumano, now Portland Educational Tour Center. Each year, four to eight students spent one school year at Regis for cultural and language reasons.”

Bauer said the program expanded in 2013 to include Japanese students who came for three months and for the most part were placed with families within the Regis community, he added.

“We still continue to accept one or two students, mostly from European countries, from the American Field Service program,” Bauer said.

In 2015, Regis started accepting students from the American Education Exchange Association. 

“These students from China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan are full-time students who intend to graduate from Regis High School as regular students,” he said. “They usually start in their sophomore or junior year. This year between the exchange students and the foreign students there will be a dozen students from abroad attending Regis.”

Bauer said as the exchange and foreign student presence has increased, so has the need for host families.

“There are so many positive stories about the relationships that develop between host families and the exchange and foreign students,” he said. “It’s a common occurrence for these students to return to Regis for visits. Several of the foreign students here to graduate have found permanent host families. With almost a dozen students from abroad there is a real need to find more host families.”

Since hosting expenses are reimbursed, Bauer said all it takes to become a host family is a willingness to open one’s home to sharing a cross cultural experience. 

“All the agencies working with Regis provide excellent support to the students attending the school,” he added.

To learn more about becoming a host family, contact Regis High School at 503-769-2159.

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