Kelly Norman visited the Club Wednesday August 12 to talk about the Rotary Youth Exchange and how clubs can benefit from working with the program.

Kelly is a member of the Clayton Morning Club in Clayton, NC and the chair for the District 7710 Rotary Youth Exchange Committee. Not only does she serve on the committee but she and her husband Pete (and Yellow Lab Seager) have hosted 2 exchange students in her home.

Unfortunately, District 7710 has not had a huge program in the past few years. While other districts might be hosting 20-plus students, we have been doing 3 or 4 a year. Kelly has committed to sending out 10 by the 2016-17 school year and believes that there are already that many or more qualified applicants. The commitment to the exchange program begins with the club. Clubs need to find host families. The families don’t need to be Rotarians but they do need to be vetted by the District Committee. Clubs also need to budget for the monthly stipend for incoming students.

What’s the value for the club? If you don’t count enriching teens’ lives, Kelly said that at least 8 of the 14 club members she personally recruited last year were people who became interested after meeting her with her exchange student.

Rotary Youth Exchange began during the 1920s as an effort between a handful of clubs in Europe. These European exchanges continued until World War II, when exchanges were put on hold. Exchange resumed in 1946 following the war. The reciprocal long-term academic exchange grew in popularity during the 1950s and became the primary type of Rotary Youth Exchange. In 1972, the Rotary International Board of Directors agreed to recommend Youth Exchange to clubs worldwide as a worthwhile international activity with the primary mission being “to work towards peace and understanding in the world”. The Rotary Exchange Program is a purely volunteer program. Host families are not paid, and neither are the Rotarians who qualify the students and assist with paperwork. This means the out of pocket expense to the student and their family is lower and the commitment from the organization is higher, creating a higher quality experience for the students.

For more information on the Rotary Exchange Program, contact Kelly Norman through the District (click here) or check the ESSEX (Eastern States Student Exchange) website at http://www.exchangestudent.org.

For more photos directly on our Flickr account here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/northraleighrotary/albums/72157656743953439/with/20333404050/

About Mike Wienold