Program seeks hosts for exchange students

By NICOLE LOGGINS/Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Columbiana families will soon have the opportunity to learn about hosting an international exchange student.

Cindy Thigpen, community coordinator for PAX, an academic exchange program, is interviewing families in the Columbiana area who may be interested in participating in a cultural exchange experience by hosting an international high school student for the coming academic year.

The meeting will be at First Baptist Church of Columbiana on March 29 at 6 p.m.

“(Hosts) get to experience a new culture and they are thrilled that these kids come into their homes hungry to learn everything they can about America,” Thigpen said. “It’s very funny to see America through (the student’s) eyes.”

PAX is a non-profit foundation that provides a U.S. high school and homestay program for students from more than 70 different countries in Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. Students are between the ages of 15 and 18, speak English and have full insurance coverage and their own spending money, said a press release.

PAX host families are asked to provide students with meals, a place to sleep and study and a supportive environment. Private rooms are not required and hosts of all backgrounds and family situations are encouraged to apply.

“There really is no ideal host,” Thigpen said. “What we’re looking for is an open heart, open mind and a loving home. It could be a blended family, widowed or divorced.”

Thigpen said the experience would change host families’ lives and give them an international experience without having to leave their homes.

“It will change your life and it will change your children’s lives,” Thigpen.

Thigpen will also host a meeting and interview session at First Baptist Church Vincent on April 19. For more information contact Cindy Thigpen at 218-9429.