Fishers resident Diane Yows was looking for a job that would allow her to spend more time with family and get involved with the community. With the Council for Educational Travel USA, or CETUSA, she found what she was looking for.
“I’ve been doing this for just over a year,” Yows said. “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done, and I want to tell the world.”
CETUSA is a nonprofit that works with high schools’ exchange-student programs to place overseas students in the schools. A national organization, CETUSA has placed exchange students in schools throughout Indiana, including Fishers High School, Lapel High School in Lapel, Columbus North in Columbus, Arsenal Technical in Indianapolis and Owen Valley in Spencer.
“I will say, I’m always impressed by Fishers High School,” Yows said. “For such a big school, officials are always open to working with (CETUSA) and are great to work with. They almost always take the allotted maximum number of five exchange students each year, sometimes more.”
Fishers High School has enrolled approximately 30 international students since it started working with CETUSA.
Yows role as a local CETUSA coordinator is to find a host family in the school district to pair with an arriving exchange student – something Yows said is actually easier than it sounds.
“A lot of families volunteer,” Yows said. “People want to open their homes to these (exchange) students in hopes of seeing a different world.”
Yows said families that have participated in CETUSA’s program said their decision revolved around the idea of learning about new cultures.
“Most Americans don’t have the money to travel the world, but these exchange students do,” Yows said. “So, they invite these students into their homes both because the students need a home while studying here and to learn about new cultures, thanks to exchange students.”
Yows acknowledged there can be hiccups with exchange students once they’re placed in their hosts’ homes.
“I love all of my families. There can be times where kids are unruly or it just doesn’t work out,” Yows said. “It’s never perfect, but I’ve always had the backing of (CETUSA) if something goes wrong.”
In emergency situations, Yows has taken in exchange students.
“Recently, an exchange student in (Indianapolis Public Schools) didn’t work out with her host family,” Yows said. “So, I took her in and she lived with me for a while. I didn’t realize this at the time, but a few of her teachers had come together to help relocate her. With their outreach, they were able to find her a new home with an awesome family, all while keeping her in the high school she was currently attending.”
That community effort that Yows experienced in that situation was something that made her want to stay with CETUSA.
“This organization made me see there is community even in larger communities,” Yows said. “I learned that it’s OK to ask for help and depend on other people. It was something I was able to show both my kids and the exchange students. It turned into a life lesson.”
For more, visit cetusa.org or contact Yows at email@example.com.