The organization Global Friendships is seeking Towson-area families to host students from Spain from June 28 to July 25.
“The experience enriches the lives of an entire American family,” said Erika Nash, an English teacher at Towson High School and an area coordinator for the Finksburg-based group. “Families also meet other families in their neighborhoods and make friends.”
Cheri Bond Pegues, who is head of the Towson High PTSA, hosted a student last summer.
“It was truly a life-changing experience! Since we have just one teenage son, Brenton, we chose a student, Borja, who was the same age. Not only did Borja and Brenton get along like best friends, but the entire group of 15 additional Spanish teens became an inseparable community in the Towson area,” Pegues said.
“We were always kept up to date with schedules and activities and [Erika] made everything fun,” she added. “Host parents all pitched in with carpools to classes and small group gatherings at each other’s homes. I would highly recommend this program to anyone, regardless of whether or not you have a teen at home.
I would highly recommend this program to anyone, regardless of whether or not you have a teen at home.
The Flyer asked Nash to explain more about the program:
How long has this program been in place?
Global Friendships has been bringing families together since 1995.
How are the Spanish students chosen?
A highly selective process in Spain through the company Interway. A representative from Interway interviews the students and their parents, and conducts background checks. Students come from middle- to upper-class families in Spain. Students and families agree to rules for the exchange.
What criteria do host families need to meet? (Does the student need his/her own room? Does the family need to speak Spanish, etc…)
Host families need to provide a bed, food, and some transportation to and from Towson High. Students can share a room with the children of the host family. We would prefer the family does not speak Spanish, as the point is to immerse the Spanish student in the English language. The most important thing a host family needs to have is an open mind and a loving heart.
Are there any fees involved? Either that the host families pay or receive?
No fees. Hosts do not get paid; they do this out of the goodness of their own heart. Students are fully insured and have their own spending money.
Why do families like to host students?
It is a great cultural experience. Some parents are worried about travel outside of the country, so they have an opportunity to bring another culture to their own family without ever leaving the country. We go on many field trips (Hershey Park, NYC, Annapolis, Baltimore with an Orioles game, Hopkins, the BMA, Washington, D.C.) and host families and/or their children can attend and ride the bus for free. Tickets for admission are available for their purchase at our reduced cost.
There is a welcome and farewell party for the students and host families. Many host families travel to Spain years later to see their Spanish son or daughter.
This is a great opportunity and I guarantee if you take a risk, you won’t be disappointed. My promise is if you host and it doesn’t work out for any reason, I will move the student from the home. Here is a chance to jump into a new experience without risk.
What is the downside to hosting a student?
There is a time commitment. And when the student leaves, there are many tears. Host families and their new Spanish son or daughter have to say goodbye, which becomes very difficult. A bond forms between the families and their Spanish child.
Why do we often see signs posted about an “urgent” need to host families?
I think people are skeptical, but the signs get people interested or at least curious enough to possibly question it. Even though we try many ideas, the signs do work. People call and we are able to explain the program to them.
Do the host families need to drive the kids to and from their classes at Towson High?
Yes, but I also use Google Maps to distribute all of the family addresses to each family hosting, so many times carpooling occurs. If someone gets in a bind, I will pick up or drop off students, too. Last year, I had a family host and the mother was blind, so I assisted them with transportation a lot.
How do people apply and what are the deadlines?
Call or email me ASAP 410-446-1937 or firstname.lastname@example.org; I take applications until my program is filled with 16 host families in the Towson area. I have profiles from Spain with student information (name, parents, likes, dislikes, pictures, allergies and a letter to the American host family). I meet with potential host families and help them choose a student who would best fit into their family. Possible hosts fill out the application, then it is processed and their background is checked to make sure the family is safe. I visit the home and talk with the family, which usually ends in a friendship.