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Student exchanges successful

MARQUETTE — Student exchange programs have been going on for years, which is a good indication they’re successful for both the students and their hosts families.

Local resident Julie Ann Thompson, who recently taught in China, is back in town and looking for host families for PAX-Program of Academic Exchange.

According to its website at pax.org, the not-for-profit educational organization, founded in 1990, is one of a select few U.S. Department of State-designated exchange visitor programs chosen to participate in the U.S. government-sponsored Future Leaders Exchange and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study programs.

PAX provides global education and exchange opportunities for students, host families, schools and communities “to open doors, embrace cultures and become family.”

Thompson, the community coordinator for PAX, graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2012, and taught at a private school and in high school in China for four years. Her mission now is getting host families for PAX.

“We bring students from 70 countries into the U.S. to go for a year of high school,” Thompson said.

She believes the program is fairly new to the Upper Peninsula.

“A host family would be required to supply breakfast and dinner, and lunch to school, transportation to school,” she said.

The student also would live with the family.

The program also works both ways, Thompson said, with students from this region sent to other countries.

A student from Indonesia named Wahyuni, who was hosted by a Utah family, was quoted by PAX as saying, “I dressed up as a gypsy for my first Halloween — I even went around the neighborhood with my host family and friends!”

PAX students study English for at least three years before their arrival, and have their own spending money and comprehensive medical insurance. Students are selected based on their English language ability and overall school record as well as their maturity and motivation. They take part in an orientation in their home countries and receive a local orientation upon their arrival in their host communities.

Students also must demonstrate a willingness to share aspects of their cultures.

“My big push is to find families right now for the fall of 2019,” Thompson said.

She plans to give an informational seminar on the program at 7 p.m. March 13 at the Peter White Public Library.

“I think the challenge is going to be to get families signed up the first year,” Thompson said. “It seems to take off after that, that families are like, ‘Well, next year, we want one.’ And it’s not as difficult, once you get past the first year.”

She said PAX has two students in the program in Gwinn and near Whitefish Point.

“We could do a lot better, and I think this is a great place for them to come,” Thompson said of the Upper Peninsula. “It’s a unique opportunity. It’s not like anywhere else in the United States.”

Thompson can be reached at 906-475-5149 or julieann1961@outlook.com.

PAX can be reached at 800-555-6211 or academicexchange@pax.org.

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