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Wanted: Families to host unique American experience

POULSBO – Secondary students from three continents are hoping to come to West Sound Academy for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.  The eight students from China, Germany, Ghana, South Korea, Spain and Turkey are participating in cultural exchange programs organized by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with the U.S. Department of State.

The seven girls and one boy who are looking forward to enrolling in classes at the college preparatory school in Poulsbo have already cleared a number of paperwork hurdles — from the Department of State and their home countries — but for their dreams of American schooling to come true they need families willing to host them during the school year.

West Sound Academy is looking forward to welcoming these students to the school this fall, in keeping with its continuing commitment to international education and diversity in its student body.  Since 2005, West Sound Academy has enrolled students from 16 different countries and currently has about 15 percent of its total enrollment coming from outside of the United States.

West Sound students typically come from north and central Kitsap County and Bainbridge Island, but the small class sizes and significant numbers of international students mean everyone can make friends with teens from all over the world.

Barrie Hillman, West Sound Academy’s Head of School, can speak personally about the exceptional rewards to herself and her entire family that have come from hosting an international student.  This year the Hillman family — Barrie and her husband Mark, and children Julie and Tyler — hosted Luyao, an 11th-grade girl from China.

Speaking from her perspective as a parent, rather than as a school administrator, Hillman said, “Hosting an international student for a year is similar to having your first baby. There is never a perfect time to do it, you just have to jump in with both feet and go for it. After the first week, you can’t imagine not having had the experience of meeting such motivated and interesting students as well as learning about his or her culture and welcoming him or her in to your family. It is particularly beneficial to children younger than your host student as they become very close and look forward to traveling to meet the rest of their ‘family’ in a far off country.”

School officials will help with the process, which involves completing a host family application and agreeing to a background check for the adults living in the home.  A site visit by a local coordinator (the student’s liaison with his or her placement organization) or school representative is a final step before host family approval. West Sound Academy will provide a host family orientation meeting in late summer to help parents get ready for the arrival of the new family members in mid-August.

Anyone who would like to become a host parent should contact Barrie Hillman to express his or her interest. Call (360) 598-5954 or email bhillman@westsoundacademy.org.

 

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