BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY — Wanted: local families to house Chinese high school students and teachers when they visit Traverse City as part of the first exchange between Traverse City Area Public Schools and a school in northeast China.
Karyn Hertel, volunteer coordinator at TCAPS, said the district was about halfway to finding homes for 51 students in 9th and 10th grades, as well as five teachers scheduled to arrive in Traverse City on Jan. 21.
Hertel said she hopes to quickly find additional host families.
"We're hoping when school starts again on Monday this process kicks into high gear," she said.
Host families provide Chinese students with food and lodging during their one-month stay. They must pass a standard district background check, and a state Department of Human Services check for histories of child abuse or neglect.
Chinese students pass an English fluency test before entering the exchange program. They will attend classes at both TCAPS high schools.
West Senior High School Principal Joe Tibaldi said hosting an exchange student gives TCAPS students and their families a chance to see that youths from around the world share the same basic interests and goals.
"It's one thing to read about that and see it on TV or the Internet, but it's another to sit in a classroom with them and see they have the same interests as you," he said.
Betsy Williams said she, her husband Mark and their daughter Lia are excited to host a female exchange student in a few weeks. The family always considered participating in an exchange program, and the relatively short stay of the Chinese students seemed like a perfect test-run.
Betsy Williams looks forward to opening her home to the student and to watching Lia, whom the Williams' adopted from China, befriend her.
"That whole friendship that is going to be made, how neat is that?" Betsy Williams said.
Lia Williams, a junior at Traverse City Central High School, said she wants to practice Chinese with the exchange student.
"I've been studying Chinese for about two, two-and-a-half years," she said. "I really just want to speak back and forth and improve my understanding of the language."
Lia Williams also hopes to travel to China with other Traverse City students as part of a second exchange scheduled for late May. TCAPS students and teachers on that trip will be fully immersed in Chinese culture while they attend school in Dailan, a seaport in Northeast China with a population of about 6 million.
Individuals interested in hosting an exchange student can contact Hertel at 933-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org.