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Exchange student program open in Alabama

By Gary Lloyd

JEFFERSON COUNTY — A program is open for those who want to share America with an exchange student from another country.

Local families are invited to host an exchange student sponsored by Program of Academic Exchange.

“Hosting an exchange student not only is an opportunity to share what you most love about the U.S., it helps you to see the U.S. through fresh eyes,” said Community Coordinator Rebecca Kinney.

The 2013-2014 student ambassadors, representing Monte Negro (Oak Mountain HS), Russia (Bob Jones HS), Spain (Randolph School), Russia – Altai region (Chelsea HS), Kazakhstan (Hewitt-Trussville HS), Turkey (Hewitt-Trussville HS), Jordan (Oak Mountain HS), Moldova (Hewitt-Trussville HS), and Indonesia and Egypt (both Clay-Chalkville HS)
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Kinney manages exchange student ambassadors that are a little different from “regular” exchange students. The students she manages have competed against tens of thousands of other exchange students for the opportunity to take part in U.S. State Department leadership programs. The students are awarded scholarships to come to the U.S. to learn leadership skills and take part in community service projects so they can take the practice of volunteerism back to their home countries, where they will work for two years on community service.

Kinney’s local group of student ambassadors was recently rewarded with a trip to the United Nations in New York City for every member of the group doing more than 100 community service hours in Alabama, as well as doing many cultural presentations for their classmates and communities.

The 2013-2014 student ambassadors included three at Hewitt-Trussville High School and two at Clay-Chalkville High School.

PAX students arrive to the U.S. for the upcoming school year in August. They are 15-18 years old, have studied English for three years, and are motivated to learn more about the U.S. by attending high school and living with a host family. They are covered by comprehensive medical insurance and have their own spending money.

Volunteer host families provide PAX students with a warm and supportive home environment, a seat at the family dinner table, a bed, a quiet place to study, and encouragement to engage in everyday American life.

The 2014-2015 incoming student ambassadors are:

  • 16-year-old Abraham from Liberia, a special needs student who’s interested in computers, reading, writing and mechanics
  • 16-year-old Ghassan from Lebanon, who’s interested in soccer, swimming, running, camping, cycling, chess and cards
  • 17-year-old Koro from Indonesia, who hopes to be a future “National Geographic” photographer, and enjoys writing, tennis, radio and graphic design
  • 15-year-old Anika from Bangladesh, who enjoys dance, poetry, singing, volunteering, reading and running
  • 15-year-old Izabells from the Republic of Georgia, who enjoys guitar, piano, dance, painting, photography, reading and cycling
  • Ecaterina from Moldova, whose interests are school radio, volunteering, meditating and environmental issues
  • Anastasiya from Turkmenistan, who enjoys jogging, reading, photography, cycling, basketball and acting
  • Mariam from Egypt, who enjoys gymnastics, soccer, swimming, karate and drawing
  • Khapiya from Kazakhstan, who enjoys volleyball, swimming, ice skating, reading, photography, chess, community service and drawing

For more information, call PAX at 205-542-6165 or visit

Contact Gary Lloyd at and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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