Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Can Always Use a Little More Diversity in Easton

Photos contributed by
Jessica Edwards

Easton Community Voices

By Jessica Edwards

Our fair little city has quite its share of multi-cultural aspects. From the thriving and blooming revolution of restaurants to ethnic festivals, such as the Greek food festival and St. Anthony's Italiana Festival and Lebanese Heritage Days, to name only a few of many events, one could literally travel the world by following their five senses in a series of visits to Easton.
The people who bring this international flavor to Easton also come from all over the world, and you can get a real sense of their upbringing and their trials and tribulations just by having a chat with any of them in passing.
I'm a Korean Irish Jew. I also serve the community full-time as an EMT with Suburban Ambulance, was a volunteer firefighter with Forks Township Fire Department, and when time permits, I volunteer down at the Farmer's Market. Hopefully soon, I'll be volunteering the Easton Community Center too.
I can clearly recall how when I worked as an EMT at the Crayola Experience how useful my knowledge of Hebrew was when I would meet Israelis or Orthodox Jewish families who would travel to our city to see the many colors and activities produced by one of the most well-known brands in the world. Turns out my Israeli dual-citizenship and subsequent learning of Hebrew came quite in handy!
So what does all of this have to do with anything?
In my spare time, I do another thing that I am particularly proud of. I'm a local coordinator for a Chicago-based educational non-profit organization, The Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI), which places high school-aged foreign exchange students into schools all over the United States.

One of the great things about America and Pennsylvania
in particular to one foreign student is getting Hershey's
chocolate on his birthday.

These students dream of studying for a semester or year in the United States to get a first-hand experience of our culture, society, customs and personalities.
However, in order to make this dream come true, they need hosts who are willing to take them into their homes and have them become an extended family member during their stay.
That's my job. I strive to make these matches and then throughout the year, I organize monthly meetings, activities, and volunteer projects to create memories that last a lifetime, not only for the student, but also the host family, the school and the community at large.
Easton Area High School has a rich history of foreign exchange students, but unfortunately, a few years ago, the local coordinator for a different program quit. At one point, the school had four foreign students per year studying in their classrooms, but they for the past two years, they have not had any.
I want to change that, but I need your help. After speaking with a number of teachers and EAHS' vice-principal, I have determined that not only are they still very open to the idea of hosting students, they in fact have determined quite a need for it.

Martin, pictured with exchange student coordinator
Jessica Edwards, on his way to the prom.

Not only do local students benefit from having their eyes opened to a new culture but the exchange students get to become a functioning member of the school's community, joining sports teams, presenting cultural programs, participating in after-school events and experiencing their first prom, with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it.
This year, CCI has over 815 students representing 28 different countries who will be landing in America at the end of August and embarking on a year-long journey that will change their lives. So far, I have one girl from Finland who will be studying in Bangor High School this year, but call me selfish I want students in Easton!
I am currently looking for families that reside in the Easton Area School District who would be willing to host a student for a semester or academic year. Families can live anywhere in the district and can come from all types of backgrounds. Single parents, singles, working families, families with no children in the home, empty-nesters, grandparents, same-sex couples, etc. Our host families are some of the most varied and amazing people!
Host families are required to fill out an application, pass a background check, have an in-home interview which takes less than an hour, and promise to provide the student the following:
  • Open communication, encouragement, patience and sound advice
  • A separate bed, which can be in a shared room with a host sibling of similar age and same gender, and a quiet place to study
  • Three daily meals (school lunch may be one of them)
  • Local transportation (students are not permitted to drive while on the program)
  • Treatment as a member of the family, which may include household rules, responsibilities and privileges.
So, if I have grabbed your interest, I would love to speak with you! Our students are coming in mid-August, and the deadline for applying to host a student is July 31. Help me to bring Easton some more international flair!
To contact Jessi Edwards for further information or to apply to become a foreign exchange student host family, contact her at 484-544-3684 or click here to email her.
For more information about CCI's foreign exchange student program, click here.

Do you have something to say? The Easton Eccentric would love to hear it and so would our readers! Whether a once, occasionally, or regularly, we're always looking to add voices from the  local community. Send us your idea for a post--chances are good that we'll say 'yes!'

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