Mattoon Rotary Club to host exchange student again | Education

MATTOON — After a pause because of COVID, the Mattoon Rotary Club again will host a Rotary Youth Exchange student.

Due to the worldwide COVID pandemic, Rotary International halted its longtime youth exchange program in the summer of 2020. Rotary recently moved to allow clubs to resume hosting and sending high school students on a yearlong exchange.

The Mattoon club recently made a commitment to host a Rotary Youth Exchange student for the 2023-24 school year. The club also is encouraging Mattoon-area high school students to consider going on exchange during that same school year.

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With the two-year layoff, the exchange program is restarting slowly. Just four of six Illinois districts chose to be involved this year. Rotary District 6490, which includes all of East-Central Illinois, is sending two area students on exchange this school year. One is a girl from Charleston going to France while the other is a boy from Tuscola, going to Brazil. In addition, Charleston, Marshall and Monticello are hosting students this school year.

The District 6490 Rotary Youth Exchange Committee has some new leadership with strong ties to the exchange program. One of the new RYE committee leaders is Kim Morrison of Mattoon. She has been involved in Rotary Youth Exchange in Mattoon and Arthur and is the parent of a student who spent a year on exchange. Morrison will serve as the district inbound coordinator, working with the foreign students who come to this area on exchange.

September and October are the months in which interested teens, ages 15-18, can apply to be Rotary Youth Exchange students. Rotary exchanges with about 40 countries. Students stay with two or three host families and must attend high school in the host country.

Bill Lair, a member of the district RYE committee, said the program is a cultural exchange.

“We’re not necessarily looking for straight-A students,” Lair said. Students must rank in the top half of their class.

“We’re looking for young people who will be ambassadors for their families, their community, our country and Rotary,” Lair added.

The program is for above-average students who are personable, smile and enjoy making new friends. Most students go on exchange either their junior year of high school or as a gap year between high school graduation and starting college.

The most recent Mattoon student to go on exchange was Sadie Armstrong, who went to Spain during the 2019-20 school year.

For more information on Rotary Youth Exchange, contact Kim Morrison at 217-621-7389 or Bill Lair at 217-218-2549. Information also is available at

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