Maine host families sought for exchange students

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PORTLAND — A foreign student exchange program is looking for local families willing to open their homes to international teens, for what recruiters say should be a mutually enriching experience.

Larry Cilley, a local coordinator with the Portland-based Council on International Educational Exchange, hopes that interested people near several area high schools – Freeport, Yarmouth, Brunswick, Mt. Ararat in Topsham, Wiscasset and Gardiner – will apply.

“The cross-pollination of shared cultures is so valuable,” Cilley said last week. “… I see how much foreign students bring to the (local) student population.”

Host families provide room and board and involve the students in their family activities, said Cilley, whose resume includes serving as town manager for Bath, Topsham and Wiscasset.

Visiting students need their own bedrooms, or they can stay in the same bedroom as youths of the same gender. The students have their own spending money, are covered by health insurance and have been screened for English-speaking ability and academic competence, Cilley said.

Cilley supervises the students and helps them resolve any issues, but he noted that most hosting experiences result in lifelong friendships.

CIEE, founded in 1947, has a mission of helping people “gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world.”

Its USA High School program brings more than 1,400 students from nearly 60 countries to American communities annually for five to 10 months. The organization’s headquarters is at 300 Fore St. in Portland.

“Usually they’re kids from countries who primary language is not English, because they’re looking for an American experience,” Cilley said.

The program is geared toward high school seniors, who write letters to their potential host families describing themselves and their interests in visiting the U.S., Cilley said; their parents also send letters.

Families interested in hosting students, or learning more about the program, can call Cilley at 687-2102. Log onto ciee.org/highschool for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.