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Exchange students right at home in Geneva

GENEVA, NY – Late in August, students will arrive in the Finger Lakes region from all around the globe to spend the academic year in the area’s homes and high schools.Diane Stofer of the Council on International Educational Exchange said she is seeking host families for teen-agers from the following countries this year: Kenya, Thailand, Ukraine, Russia, China, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, India and others. (What counties are included in the search?)In recent years, Geneva High School has been an active participant in the exchange student program. Last month, the Council on International Educational Exchange recognized Geneva High for hosting multiple students in the program during the 2009-2010 school year, said Principal William Rotenberg.The school’s three exchange students – Iryna Yefanova of Ukraine, Emil Siedberg of Sweden and Filip Ryznar of the Czech Republic – gave Geneva High’s Class of 2010 a distinctly international flavor. The three students became a part of their host families’ lives as well as the Geneva community’s life during the past school year. They have all returned to their home nations with countless memories and plans to keep in touch with their Geneva families.Iryna, or Ira as she is known to her friends, is a FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange program) scholarship recipient from Ukraine who was hosted by Bob and Barbara Weinberg of Geneva. The Weinbergs live in the same neighborhood as Rob and Trish Koczent, who hosted Emil, and Tom and Jennifer FitzGerald, who hosted Filip. Stofer, a former local coordinator of CIEE’s USA High School program whose role has been expanded to Team Leader for Upstate New York. The Upstate New York team is seeking host families in the Finger Lakes Region, Central New York, Rochester, Albany/Saratoga Springs and the Adirondacks.Stofer said Geneva High School has much to offer international students and “Geneva is a wonderfully welcoming community.” Barbara Weinberg and her family found the exchange experience so valuable that she has joined the Council on International Educational Exchange as a Local Coordinator for the Finger Lakes region and is working with Stofer to helpplace other students in homes for the coming year.“We learned as much from our experience with Ira as she did from us,” Weinberg said. She has become a part of our family after living with us for more than 10 months, and I expect to remain in contact with her for the rest of my life.”“We had no idea what a wonderful experience it would be, but we knew from reading her profile that she was a special kid. She excelled in school, music, clearly loved her family, and at the age of 15 she was adventurous and self assured enough to travel to a foreign country and live with an unknown family to learn about America.”In Geneva, Ira experienced a more diverse culture than in Ukraine. She made many friends in high school and participated in events at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she met many people from foreign countries. “We stay in touch with Ira since she left through Facebook, Skype and e-mail,” Weinberg said, and modern technology also allowed Ira to stay in contact with her parents while she was in Geneva. The Weinbergs hope to visit Ira in Urkaine and she is already talking about doing one year of college in Geneva after finishing high school at home, or coordinating a summer trip back to Geneva at some point.To participate in the exchange program in the coming academic year, Stofer said interested parents should immediately contact her at nyciee@yahoo.com (phone: (585) 670-0435) or Barbara Weinberg at bobwine@rochester.rr.com.The CIEE’s USA High School program began in 1995 in response to the need to offer a quality program for international students to participate in American high schools and interact with host families and communities for 5 or 10 months. The CIEE USA High School program has grown from a handful of students and countries to include more than 55 nationalities represented in a group of over 1,300 students each year, according to the CIEE Web site.Students in the program are between 15 and 18 years of age, have studied English for a minimum of three years, have their own medical insurance and spending money, and have undergone a thorough personal screening and interview process.CIEE is designated by the U.S. Department of State as an administrator of several grant programs for students who have been selected to participate in scholarship programs, including FLEX. For more information about the program, go to www.ciee.org/highschool/

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