Academic Year in America looks for ‘welcoming families’ for upcoming placement demands

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, July 26, 2022

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury School System opens its doors for international students all over the globe who want to experience the United States culture; however, due to schools outside of the areas suspending foreign exchange programs, many students are in need of a temporary home as the fall semester approaches.

Ginger Jeffcoat, local coordinator of Academic Year in America (AYA) in Rowan County, said the organization is facing placement challenges this year. It is unclear why schools are pulling back from foreign exchange programs, she said, but the COVID-19 pandemic and overcrowding of schools seem to be the leading factors.

“We are asking potential host families (the ones that are waiting to host) to prayerfully consider another option called ‘welcoming a student,’ maybe even two,” she said.

Welcoming a student is not the same as hosting. Host families can choose to give a student a home for a 10-month school year or a five-month fall semester. Welcome families take a student into their home for six to eight weeks while AYA coordinators find a host family for the teenager. If the welcome family chooses to host after the six- to eight-week period, they have the option to keep them for the fall semester and onward instead of having them move to another home.

The family has to be fully vetted, including submitting to a criminal background check and interview, before welcoming a student. According to Jeffcoat, the process for that would take less than a week.

“We try to fit students with families that we believe would go well from the beginning,” she explained. “If the match or rematch doesn’t work, local coordinators will contact AYA to find another area for the student. Nine times out of 10, the family works.”

There is not a deadline to apply to be a welcoming family as AYA sometimes puts students in schools after the year has started. Those who choose to offer students a temporary home for the six to eight weeks can expect to provide a safe and supportive environment, encouragement, a bed and desk space, quality meals, transportation to and from school and love for each student. Families can also choose their student through a collection of profiles after the interview and background check are complete and will receive their student in either August or January, depending on which time they would like to host.

Five girls from Germany, all between the ages of 14 and 16, are currently looking for a home in Rowan County. To become a welcoming or host family, contact Jeffcoat at 704-209-1714.