sealPurdue News

March 1, 2002

Student exchange program seeks host families

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Four students traveling to Indiana from countries in the former Soviet Union are looking for host families to share their experience.

The students are part of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), a yearlong international exchange program to introduce young people from the New Independent States to democracy. Students live with a host family and spend an academic year in a U.S. high school.

"We read about the opportunity to host in the local newspaper," said Dave Neireiter of Monticello, Ind. He and his wife Sandy are currently serving as host parents for Natasha Utesheva, a FLEX student from Uzbekistan. "Everything has been fantastic. Natasha is a wonderful student and a great girl to have around."

Students receive monthly spending money and funds to participate in educational activities. Host families provide meals and housing. Host families also receive basic information on political, cultural and religious differences they may find when hosting a student.

"FLEX is a great program because it's scholarship based," said Chris Cook-Leitz, international program coordinator for 4-H/Youth Development at Purdue. "The student application process is lengthy; the students admitted are really the best of the best."

Students in the FLEX program are chosen though a highly selective process, with only one in 30 applicants being accepted. Selection is based on personality, social skills, academic achievement and potential for success as an exchange student. Students may come from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine or Uzbekistan. All students are proficient in English.

Host families are not required to have children the same age as the student and single people also may serve as hosts. Hosts do not have to be involved in 4-H or any other Purdue Extension program. Before inquiring about housing a student, potential hosts should contact their local high school to assure space exists for an exchange student. A screening process, including reference checks and interviews, will follow.

The FLEX program is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The bureau takes proposals from private, not-for-profit organizations to determine which are qualified to participate in the FLEX program. Approved organizations then distribute the funding as scholarships for the selected students.

Host families are needed from late July or early August until June 2003. Anyone interested in hosting one of the students may contact Cook-Leitz at (765) 494-8437,

CONTACTS: Dave Neireiter, (219) 583-8732,; Chris Cook-Leitz, (765) 494-8437,

Writer: Mindy Reef, 765-494-8402,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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