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News - Youth For Understanding USA

Latest news about Youth for Understanding USA student exchange programs worldwide – Events – Partnerships.

Filtering by Tag: exchange program

Celebrating our Founder and the Volunteer Spirit

Rachel Arnold Cooper

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Excerpt from 1986 interview with Rachel Andresen.

Our Founder and inspiration, Dr. Rachel Andresen, would’ve been 112 today! It is also the beginning of National Volunteer Week. Rachel looked at YFU as an organization that grew from the strong interest in the family. The exchange program spread from family to family and from community to community and around the world.

YFU has succeeded as a family-based organization, as well as a volunteer based organization, “because giving and sharing is close to the hearts of people. Families initially take students to give something, and then they receive so much more than they give. Their family life is enriched, their knowledge of the world expanded and their appreciate of another country and of its people increased,” said Dr. Andresen.

Of YFU volunteers, Dr. Andresen said they are part of the organization “because they love people and have a real concern for others. The people involved in the program are on a real grassroots level of the operation, and they are an invaluable resource."

“Volunteers are basic to YFU, its operation and its continuation. We couldn't operate our program without volunteers not one day in the year.”

No matter what role one plays in the youth exchange experience, the opportunities are shared by everyone, according to Dr. Andresen. “This program is an opportunity for an expression of the idealistic part of our own mind. It’s an opportunity for us to give the very best of what we are and to share that with somebody else.”

Love, Curiosity, and Kindness

Rachel Arnold Cooper

"Love, curiosity, and kindness make it a great one." 

That's what Elisabeth Egel says about the planet we all share since experiencing life in the United States on her exchange program from Estonia.

Hosted by the Whatley family in Armada, MI, Elisabeth has gone above and beyond the requirements of her U.S. Department of State-sponsored FLEX scholarship. She is excelling academically while enrolled in Advanced Placement History and Honors English classes. Required to give one presentation about her country; Elisabeth has completed seven, which included slides, music, dance lessons, and sweet treats (photo top left). A trained classical pianist, Elisabeth is now learning jazz and 20th-Century compositions, thanks to the piano the Whatley family rented for her. "With the help of my coaches and classmates, I have run in several 5K cross country meets, one of which involved running through a stream and a lot of mud," said Elisabeth. She even led the Whatley family dog through an agility course with the help of an instructor.

What makes Elisabeth's program so exceptional? She is totally blind.

Elisabeth said, "When I found out that I had a chance to go to the United States...I was not sure if I had the strength and independence that this step required." She found the perfect host parent in Evon Whatley. "Elisabeth is totally blind and I grew up with both blind parents so this was not a problem, in fact, I was quite comfortable and confident in meeting her needs," said Evon.

Elisabeth reflected on her past six months and said, "I feel the core values of people are similar and that is what keeps the whole world together." Evon said, "We remind Elisabeth to never stop trying or dreaming, my quote to her is 'The Sky Is The Limit And There Is No Limit To The Sky'. We love her dearly."

Learn more about opening your heart and home to an international exchange student and becoming a host family.

Find out more about the Future Leaders of Exchange (FLEX) program sponsored by US Department of State.