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Rotary Youth Exchange program helping students

by Rochelle Eiselt | September 21, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Katherine Stevens, Rotary Youth Exchange Student, prepares to leave for Spain. (Left) Romane Dessy from Belgium, Rotary Youth Exchange student holds a flag.

A Rotary Youth Exchange Student program is helping students learn.

Romane Dessy, 18, a Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Belgium, said one of the reasons she decided to be a part of the exchange program was because she wanted to learn English, as one day she would like to be a journalist.

Exchanges for students ages 15-19 are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries. The Rotary Youth Exchange Program has been around for decades.

Students go on exchange for the whole school year. Dessy attends Fulton High School, as Fulton Public Schools hosted the exchange.

Dessy said it was hard at first being new and making friends, but now she has adjusted and has made new friends.

She is a part of Interact club and enjoys cinnamon rolls since moving to America. There are more choices of food in America than in her home country, she said.

"Everything is bigger here and very sweet," Dessy said.

It was also a way for Dessy to leave her comfort zone and meet new people, she said. She could discover another culture, another country, through the program.

Amanda Gowin, Rotary Youth Exchange Officer, helps do the paperwork process which takes care of Dessy.

Dessy writes monthly reports on how she's doing in the program and Gowin writes reports on how things are going.

Dessy gets to live with three different families while in Fulton. In December, Dessy will move with another family and then move to another family again in March.

"We make sure families are adjusting well," Gowin said.

Gowin said it's a nice way to do exchange, as it's a way for Dessy to learn about different cultures.

"It's important for our students to learn about different cultures," Gowin said. "It's a very beneficial program for everyone involved."

Rotary had an interview with Dessy and training session before coming to America.

Katherine Stevens, 16, is another Rotary Youth Exchange Student who recently left for Spain.

Rotary Youth Exchange continues to inspire young leaders to serve as catalysts for peace and social justice in their local communities and throughout the world, long after their exchanges end.

The program is possible because of the dedication, leadership, and passion of volunteers.

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