Lake Tahoe residents invited to open hearts, homes to international students

Lake Tahoe residents invited to open hearts, homes to international students

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The International Cultural Exchange Services (ICES) is looking for host families in the Lake Tahoe area for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year.

ICES promotes intercultural understanding and global citizenship through the U.S. Department of State high school exchange program. It aims to provide international students with an enriching academic and cultural experience while living with American host families.

Jessie Moore, the program’s regional manager, has hosted 13 students over the past 8 years.

“It’s a great experience for families and youth to learn about another culture,” said Moore. “You can have another child without assuming a lot of responsibility. You can make lifelong connections with these kids.”

Host families play a vital role in the exchange program by offering a safe and nurturing home environment for the students.

“What I’m super excited about is to find families who are a good fit for the exchange students,” said Shelby Rugg, ICES coordinator for Lake Tahoe region excluding Washoe County. “… one student and one family at a time you can change the world.”

Rugg said ICES welcomes diverse family dynamics, including single individuals, couples with or without children, empty nesters, and retirees. The main responsibilities of a host family include providing meals, transportation, and a comfortable living space for the student.

The exchange program operates on a semester or year-long basis, with most students arriving in August for the full academic year or in January for a calendar school year.

For a shorter commitment, ICES offers the option of being a welcome family and hosting a student for 4 to 8 weeks.

“I’m super passionate about this exchange program and I’m really excited to place my first student,” said Rugg who started working for ICES in March.

Rugg will be the host families’ support person during the exchange experience. Rugg will answer questions, address concerns, and organize activities for students and host families to interact and celebrate cultural diversity.

“I’m here to help the student and family navigate anything that comes up,” Rugg said. “I’m also here for the school for anything that comes up. I’m an intermediary for that.”

In case of emergencies, Rugg and other ICES staff can be reached 24-hours a day by phone.

Hosting an international student offers numerous benefits to the host family, including exposure to different cultures, languages, and perspectives, as well as the opportunity to develop social and hosting skills. It also helps to inspire children to participate in school exchange programs abroad and fosters an interest in the local community and the changing world.

“Even though I wasn’t an exchange student, I always wanted to be,” said Rugg who has traveled to at least 25 states. “I’m just passionate about it (international exchange program) because traveling changed me as a person. It has made me more open-minded and curious. It helps bridge the differences we have as human beings. We really do have more similarities at the end of the day.”

The organization’s goal is to foster mutual respect, friendship, and learning among American families and students from different backgrounds and countries, ultimately contributing to a more peaceful world by advancing international awareness and cultural understanding.

For more information about becoming a host family, go to Become a Host Family for a High School Exchange Student | ICES USA.

Last school year in California, ICES placed 2,050 high school students, Moore said.

Families interested in hosting should contact Rugg at(530) 558-1029. She will set up an online application form.

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