Heights High celebrates 60 years of international exchange

Heights High AFS students: Swalehe Mbagga (Kenya), Carolyn Pavel (AFS Club advisor), Mercy Sakayian (Kenya) (L-R, fourth row). Mariama Kabia (Sierra Leone), Luciano Delmonte (Argentina), Roberto Pastorelli (Italy) (L-R, third row). Zainab Said (Tanzania), Emmanuel Saah (Ghana), Almira Udjan (Philipines) (L-R, second row). Olwethu Zungu (South Africa), Marianella Guerrero (Paraguay), Nadia Faisal (Malaysia) (L-R, first row). Not pictured: Thitaporn (Parn) Satetapinyo (Thailand).

The Cleveland Heights High School AFS International Exchange Program has been an active part of the Heights community for 60 years. Since 1957, Heights High families have hosted AFS international exchange students or sent their students abroad.

Heights High and the Greater Cleveland AFS program will celebrate this history at the AFS Heights High Gala on Saturday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person, and include appetizers. Beginning March 31, tickets will be available for purchase at Zagara’s Marketplace.

The April 21 benefit event will celebrate the long history of international exchanges and cultural learning at the school, and will include displays from current Heights High AFS students and performances by Heights High vocalists. 

AFS was started after World War II by volunteer ambulance drivers who transported wounded soldiers to safety from both sides of battle (thus, the original name, American Field Service, or AFS). They established the AFS exchange program to promote understanding among nations and build cultural awareness.

Featured guest speaker David K. Ford, one of the original World War II American Field Service ambulance drivers, will talk about his experience and the importance of international exchanges. 

Heights High’s first AFS students, during the 1957–58 school year, were a girl from Japan and a boy from Argentina. Currently, AFS students at Heights High are from Argentina, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. 

“AFS students are a wonderful asset to our school,” said Heights High guidance counselor Michael Murray. “In classes, they give the American students a personal ‘real’ lesson about life in another culture, and that is something you can’t get in a book.”

Volunteers lead and are the backbone of the AFS program in Cleveland Heights and in every community. The April 21 event will be held in conjunction with the AFS National Volunteer Convention in downtown Cleveland.

For more information, e-mail afs60years@gmail.com or leave a message at 440-815-1918.

Joy Henderson

Joy Henderson is the parent/community liaison for Heights High.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 10:38 AM, 03.29.2018