Emma Briody visits the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

Rotary Youth Exchange Fosters Global Understanding

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Thursday January 16, 2014

January 2 marked the first meeting of 2014 for the South Burlington Rotary Club. Presentations were made by two Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) students, Emma Briody and Peter Huffman, who were sponsored by the South Burlington based club during the 2012-13 academic year.  They were joined by two other students who are also part of the larger South Burlington RYE community; Alex Pasanen who participated in a short-term exchange to France and Samuel Desautels who will participate in the long-term exchange program for the 2014-15 academic year. The final member of this group is Samantha Wulfson who is currently living in Argentina on a long-term exchange.

Huffman’s and Briody’s presentations reaffirmed the reason that South Burlington’s club has been an active participant in Rotary Youth Exchange for many years. These student’s lives have been changed for the good, forever. 

Both acknowledged how much they had learned, not only about the people and the culture of the countries where they lived, but also about what they each learned about themselves and their own capabilities. Huffman, who traveled to the Czech Republic and Slovakia and is now a freshman at Middlebury College, shared fascinating stories about some foods very unusual to our American palate and lessons learned about the difference in how trust in relationships is built. Briody spoke about the community she formed with her school friends and how vital that was to her entire experience.

One of the other benefits of the RYE program is the building of global, and often lifelong, friendships and bonds created between the young people and their fellow exchange students from all over the world. 

During the academic year that Peter Huffman and Emma Briody went on exchange, two foreign students came here as RYE students. Assi Elina Teittinen, a young woman from Finland and Guilherme Urio, a young man from Brazil attended South Burlington High School during their exchange.   These opportunities were made available through the Rotary Club sponsorship and the generosity of the community host family volunteers – the Briodys, the Huffmans and the Walshes. Without the host families, the program could not happen. 

Now that Desautels is approved as an outbound student, the club is expecting an inbound student in late August, who shall arrive in time to start the 2014-15 academic year. Therefore the club is now looking for two or three additional volunteer host families to participate in the program. One of the secrets to the success of the program is the experience provided to the students within their host families. The host family volunteers provide a home away from home and insights into different family settings for the visiting student. Host families may or may not have students in the school system and do not have to be Rotarians. 
If you would like to learn more about the Rotary exchange program or about becoming a host family, please contact Penne Tompkins at penarts.tompkins@gmail.com.