By NICK YAMASHITA
Exchange Students will be returning to Moapa Valley again in the coming school year, after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the program last year. The only thing that will slow it down now may be a shortage of local host families.
“It is exciting that we get to have foreign exchange students again,” stated local Education First (EF) High School Exchange program Coordinator Brooke Redd. “However, we need places for them to stay.”
The global EF Program announced in late May that the program was resuming the placement of exchange students worldwide depending on the COVID-19 risk status and mandates of the various locations.
Foreign exchange students in the Moapa Valley and around the world, had their experiences cut short in late March of 2020 due to the pandemic. Many were saddened to vacate the United States earlier than planned. But there was some urgency for them to get home before their own countries closed their borders.
Redd emphasized the importance of host families in the EF program. “They are so vital to the success of the program,” she said. “We have multiple students who would love to experience this great country and our communities here, but we need host families to give them that experience.”
Redd, along with her husband Dean, has hosted multiple exchange students themselves. Their latest “foreign family member” Sophie Kvist, from Denmark, was one of those who went home early last year.
“We have students from Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany, and more that are all lined up to come, but we have to match them with host families,” stated Redd. “Every single one of these students becomes family to their host families. They are part of the family. It is hard to see them go home at the end of the school year, but the relationship formed lasts forever on.”
Moapa Valley High School Principal Hal Mortensen said that the EF program has been a positive influence at the school, adding diversity and vigor to the small town high school experience. “We are excited to have them back on board with us for the new school year,” he said.
Virgin Valley High School Principal Riley Frei was also eager to welcome exchange students back to his school. “I am happy to see the schools open to every student who wants to be there,” Frei said. “One lesson the pandemic has taught us is that we take way too much for granted. To that end, it’s wonderful to have folks excited to be on campus, regardless of where they live.”
The EF High School Exchange Program has had nearly 50 years of providing life-changing experiences to students. EF started its program in 1979 at a time when cultural exchange had become a priority.
Under the work and direction of Senator J. William Fulbright the program got off the ground. Fulbright is often considered the Father of Foreign Exchange Programs in the US.
Now the program under EF has a global presence in over 50 countries, 600+ offices/schools, and extends to 52,000+ staff and educators. They are the largest exchange program in the US, bringing more foreign exchange students into the US than any other program.
Those interested in becoming a host family for EF foreign exchange students may visit www.efexchangeyear.org/ or contact Brooke Redd through her Facebook profile Brooklyn Pulsipher Redd EF.