By Lisa Scott
Special to The SUN
The Rotary clubs in Pagosa Springs have participated in the International Youth Exchange Program for decades.
Students apply for this opportunity through their local Rotary Club and are interviewed and selected by committees in each country. Once a student is placed, they spend 10-12 months in that community and live with three or four different families during their time abroad. This way, they experience different family environments and meet a wider variety of people.
The noon Pagosa Springs Rotary Club is currently sponsoring Johnny Chen from Taipei, Taiwan, who arrived in Pagosa Springs in August. He is 17 years old and, while quiet and easy going, he has many friends and is an enthusiastic learner. Johnny’s older brother was an exchange student in Wisconsin last year. In Taiwan, his family is currently hosting a student from Illinois.
The Taiwan educational system is different from America and Johnny attends a high school where his focus is electronics. At Pagosa Springs High School, he is enrolled in some typical American classes including American history and explorations in science. He is also taking classes that have a personal interest for him like drama, choir and Americana Project. He is very excited to be learning to play the guitar. Basketball is another love and he is currently playing on the C team.
Blake and Leslie Holleman are Chen’s first host parents. Blake is a Rotarian, as is his mother Arleta Gary, whom Chen fondly calls “Granny.” Chen has been introduced to many Pagosa activities, sites and eateries with the Hollemans.
Hosting an exchange student is a wonderful opportunity for your family and is a fun way to expose your children to other cultures.
Harrison Day, a Pagosa Springs High School student, is currently an outbound exchange student and is living in Brazil. The morning Rotary Club will be welcoming a young woman from New Zealand in January.
Clubs are always looking for host families and anyone who is interested in learning more about this opportunity should contact Lisa Scott, 264-2730 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Robert Soniat, 731-3779 or email@example.com.
Rotary clubs in town include the morning club, which meets Wednesdays at 7 a.m. at the Buffalo Inn and the noon club, which meets Thursdays at noon at Nello’s. Rotary is always accepting new members and invites anyone who would like to explore the opportunity to make contact with any community Rotarian or the names listed above.
Rotary International is an international service organization with the purpose to bring together dedicated individuals to exchange ideas, build relationships, take action and help build goodwill and peace in the world. There are over 34,000 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide.