Two Greencastle residents, Linda Sebree and Patrick Aikman, have been named community coordinators for the Program Academic Exchange (PAX), a not-for-profit agency based in Port Chester, N.Y.
PAX offers both inbound and outbound high school students international experiences with hosting families with whom they live, in most cases for one or two semesters and sometimes 4-6 weeks.
PAX promotes and arranges international student exchanges to foster the positive development of the world's young people and to support international friendship and cross-cultural understanding.
Host families come in all sizes and shapes --- from single parents, empty nesters, young couples with small children, as well as traditional two-parent families with teenagers.
Mrs. Sebree has been designated to work with students and families in North Putnam and Greencastle High School, as well as schools in Montgomery County.
Aikman is assigned to assist with South Putnam and Cloverdale schools, as well as other nearby communities and their high schools --Brazil, Plainfield, Spencer and Rockville -- to establish contacts and enrollments. However, both Sebree and Aikman can work with any high school in the county based on the family's decision.
Founded in 1990, PAX provides young people from the U.S. and abroad opportunities to live with families and to study in other countries. Each year some 600-800 students participate in the international exchange program, certified by the U.S. State Department.
Families interested in hosting a student from abroad should contact either of the two community coordinators for further information regarding requirement and expectations. The PAX website offers useful information about the programs at www.PAX.org.
Mrs. Sebree may be contacted at 653-7389 and Aikman at 653-8504. Aikman formerly worked at The Indianapolis Star and at DePauw as director of public relations. Mrs. Sebree is employed locally.
PAX carefully screens all students, including his or her previous academic performance for language competence. They are required to have taken three or more years of English in their home country. They represent more than 40 countries with a diversity of nationalities, a mix of backgrounds, a range of interests and aptitudes and specific talents and enjoy extracurricular activities.
A PAX student's needs are simple --- a bed of his or her own (many students share a bedroom) a quiet place to study and an extra place at the table for meals. These students have full insurance coverage and bring their own personal spending money.
Host families typically share a common interest in young people, are usually curious about other countries and their people, take pride in their own communities and high schools, and they have a desire to share what they value with others. They have open minds and generous hearts.
Hosting families experiences a foreign culture without ever leaving home. They have a chance to discover different holidays, other ways of thinking about the day's news, and a different perspective on many things. They may learn a few phrases of a foreign language or try dishes from their student's homeland, and are almost certain to form a friendship that may well endure for years to come.
Normally, these are the usual requirements to become a PAX host family:
1. Share a commitment to hosting and an understanding of the responsibilities.
2. Have at least one family member over the age of 28.
3. Provide the students with a bed and a place to study. A student may not share a bed but a student may share a room, but only with a host sibling of the same gender who is within four years of the exchange student's age.
4. Provide breakfast, dinner/supper and snacks for the student. The student is prepared to buy lunch at his or her high school and have his own spending money.
5. Prospective host families should be financially secure and be able to assume the cost of hosting a teenager. In addition, PAX families are usually interested in learning about other countries.
The following testimonials from former host families speak volumes of the value and education that comes from sharing their homes and lives with a foreign exchange student:
"Our student has made our lives more fulfilling that ever imaginable. Our 10-year-old son said that he knew we could not afford to take a trip around the world, and he thanked me for bringing the world to him." -- Jan Smith, Tumers Falls, Mass.
"I now know the hardest part about being a host family is the day when Nok has to go back home. We have been lucky to share many of Nok's first time/experiences in America with her: Her first Thanksgiving, first snow, first Christmas, and first encounter with Saint Nick." - -Shemi Andrews, host mother for Chitchanok, Thailand.