Need for foreign exchange student host families

Published: Aug. 1, 2013 at 2:37 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2013 at 5:26 PM CDT
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AMARILLO - The new school year is approaching fast but dozens of high school students still don't know where they'll be living come the start of the semester.

We're talking about foreign exchange students. One area coordinator says she still has 100 students that need host families.

Lindy Wakefield has traveled to 45 different countries, and because of those travels she has dozens of friends all over the world.

As a coordinator for an international student exchange program, she wants to help others make those connections.

"We have students in Norway, Spain, Germany, Asia and South America still looking for homes," Wakefield said.

Texas has more exchange students per capita than any other state, but Wakefield wants to share the panhandle generosity with more international students.

"I can go 120 miles outside of Amarillo, and right now I've been focusing on Amarillo and Canyon, but I'm really really hoping, and I can expand at any time, to actively, aggressively expand it next year," she said.

Wakefield's organization, the Center of Cultural Interchange is just one of several exchange programs active in the panhandle.

Right now 16-year-old Augusto from Brazil is staying in Amarillo for the summer through a Lions Club program.

"I love the U.S.," he said.

Augusto's host mom, Paula Davis, has invited five different students into her home over past years. All experiences she says are shaping her boys into open-minded, well-rounded young adults.

"It helps them understand that people across the world have a lot of similarities," she said. "Just because we have different backgrounds or different races or different cultures doesn't make us so different."

Davis and her boys keep in touch with former students they've hosted. So does Wakefield who says an e-mail from a German student she knew in high school highlights how influential exchange programs can be.

"It was the most magical year of my life. It made me fall in love with the U.S. and always made me defend the U.S. when anyone went to criticize it, no matter where I was," she read. "Thanks for having other exchange students have such an experience."

For more information about hosting a foreign exchange student, e-mail Lindy Wakefield at