Not just another summer vacation: Heights High junior Miles Walker is Japan-bound

While most of the students at Heights High will be breathing a sigh of relief for summer vacation in June, Miles Walker, an 11th grader at the high school will be packing his bags for a seven-week stay with a host family in Japan. He will attend school to study Japanese language through the AFS Student Exchange Program. AFS (formerly the American Field Service) is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than forty countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and headed up by a volunteer board. AFS-USA works toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities through a global volunteer partnership.

When speaking with Miles’ mother about how she felt about her son going to Japan, she expressed that this is the chance of a lifetime for Miles. The foreign exchange students in the AFS club, and the Japanese club at the high school peeked Miles’ interest. It has also been helpful that this year Heights High currently has a Japanese exchange student. She and her host family have been supportive and helpful with Miles regarding Japanese culture and other tips to make his foreign exchange experience a positive one. This is perfect timing as Miles' trip fits right in with our district’s P.A.S.S.A.G.E. vision of preparing our students to become global citizens.

AFS has been an active extracurricular club at Heights High for over fifty years. The AFS club has evolved into a dynamic place for the students of Heights High to intermingle with young people from around the world who attend Heights High as exchange students.

Most families have no idea how much they’ll gain by sharing their lives with a young person or teacher from another country until they become an AFS Host Family. Imagine what it would be like having an AFS brother or sister from another part of the world. Participants create friendships that last far beyond the time shared together.

This experience forever changes the lives of not only individual families, but so many other people as well. What begins as an exchange of kindness, customs, and culture within a family extends throughout a high school and community to touch thousands of lives.

In the past fifty years, the Cleveland Heights community has hosted hundreds of students from countries around the world. We are currently seeking families in the Heights and the Cleveland area to host future students. You can be single or married; you can live in an apartment or a single family home. You can be a retired couple or have a small child in the home. You do not have to have a high school child to host a student.

By opening your home and sharing your family with a high school student from another country, you can help to build bridges of intercultural understanding at a time when the world really needs it most.

Most students come to Cleveland Heights for the school year, but they may also come for a six-month semester stay. Enjoying daily family life, meals together, activities like going to the movies and other social events helps make a world of difference to a young visitor who is eager to experience what it's like to live as a member of a family, school and community in the United States.

Host families provide a bed and meals for the student, and the same guidance, love and support to the student as they would to their own son or daughter. Host families and students receive support from local AFS Volunteers. Host families are not required to provide the student with clothing or medical coverage as each student will be responsible for his or her own clothes items and AFS provides medical coverage for each student.

Our partner countries screen each applicant to ensure that the students come here interested and ready to learn our culture and language and about your family.

There are also strict rules that all AFS students agree to follow while here in the United States: no driving and no abuse of illegal drugs. Disciplinary action is taken against students who choose to break these rules, up to and including being sent back to their home country.

However, for most host families, the toughest part is saying good-bye — that is, until they learn that the friendship isn’t over, it just takes a new form.

Another way to assist AFS is to volunteer as a liaison family. Each hosted student and his/her family are assigned a liaison family. These liaisons are not related to the host family and meet about once a month to work as a link between the hosted student and the host family, if any need should arise. The liaison is available for support or as a resource in AFS policy and procedure.

We are currently seeking families that may be interested in hosting a student for the 2008-2009 school year or maybe sometime in the future. If you are interested, or know of any family that may make a great host family or liaison family to a foreign exchange student, please email me at:

There will be an AFS host family informational meeting for anyone that may be interested now or in the future to host a student or to get more information. The AFS hosting meeting will be held at 3 p.m. in the Levey Room of the CH-UH Main Library on Saturday, May 10, 2008. Carla Bailey is Heights High PTSA co-president.



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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 8:48 PM, 04.18.2008