The chance to study overseas awaits area students adventurous enough to partake in the Rotary Club Youth Exchange program.
The Martinez-Evans Rotary Club is currently recruiting students ages 15 to 18 1/2 who are willing to commit to a year abroad.
About 9,000 teens worldwide participate in Rotary youth exchanges each year in about 80 countries, said Jim Heaney, who on July 1 takes over as the Rotary Club Youth Exchange Chairman for District 6910, which covers a large portion of north Georgia, including Columbia County.
"This program is ambassadorial in nature," he said. "A lot of these students have never been to a foreign country, and when they do go, they learn the language. When they come back, they're completely fluent because they've been there a year and had to learn."
Students are also given the opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign cultural by living with host families.
Last year, nine foreign exchange students attended Columbia County schools, according to school officials.
This year, two Georgia students, outside of the county, have applied to study overseas. Heaney is also working to bring two students from South America to Georgia.
"You try to do a one-on-one kind of thing," he said. "You don't want to accept 10 students and don't send any out."
All prospective students in the youth exchange program must be sponsored by a local Rotary club and complete a written application and oral interview. Students must have above-average grades to qualify.
"All of these students are the cream of the crop, just unbelievable students," Heaney said.
The student, or their parents, are expected to pay travel costs and expenses related to preparation. They also must provide $400 in emergency money. The total costs is about $3,000 to $4,000, depending on the country, according to a statement from the Rotary Club.
Anyone interested in applying to become a foreign exchange student or families willing to host a foreign student, should call Heaney at (706) 495-7601 or e-mail him at Jim@Rotary6910.com.
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