Input sought on program to bring students from Middle East to Devils Lake

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor

Nearly every year there are foreign exchange students walking the halls of our local high schools.

Most are from Europe or South America and have a strong grasp on the English language and the American way of life. Local families typically embrace the students and try to incorporate them in their day-to-day activities, making them feel like a part of the family.

But, would these same families be as willing to host the students if they arrived from the Middle East?

That's what local AFS chair Roxanne Hawley would like to find out.

Hawley said the Prairie Rose Chapter of AFS is an unaffiliated chapter, meaning the orientation, planning, supervising, etc., are all conducted in the area. In the past, she explained, host families would have to travel to Fargo.

Each year AFS connects students from around the world with host families in North Dakota.

This year, Hawley explained, the local AFS chapter would like to expand and try the “Sponsored Program,” a branch of AFS.

“We've never tried it in Devils Lake,” she said.

Students in the Sponsored Program can't get into AFS for financial or other reasons. They are selected on academic standards and other criteria and given a scholarship for their year abroad. As part of the agreement, however, they must provide public education on their home and culture through a series of speaking engagements.

“They have requirements the other AFS students didn't have,” Hawley explained.

She said the project is part of an effort for a more peaceful world and the students are from countries that are especially important to build diplomacy with.

“Either we know nothing about them or we don't trust them,” she said.

Hawley said students will arrive from Kuwait, Pakistan, Yemen, Mali, Tanzania and Turkey, to name a few.

The students must also arrive in groups of three, she said, meaning three families must be secured before the students can travel to the area. The families can be from other towns, she added, they do not have to be from Devils Lake.

“In my opinion, the lack of understanding between different cultures is the sole reason behind all fighting between the nations and peoples of the world,” Hawley said. “If people get to know these students, they quickly realize that even though their religious practices may differ our moral values are the same.”

She continued, “These people value respecting elders, caring for neighbors, helping those in poverty and many other things we accept as core values.”

Hawley said a meeting is planned on June 22 to gauge interest in the community. It will be held at the Liquid Bean from 5-6:30 p.m.

Hawley said the meeting will be held to introduce the new program and answer any questions.

Those attending are not committing to anything, she said.

“It for anybody who wants to volunteer, learn more or has an interest in what AFS is all about,” she said.