This summer a group of 140 Japanese students will be visiting Spokane for three weeks. They will tell you they are in “first grade” which means their first year of high school, and that they are here to learn better English and to learn about American culture.
The exchange program is put together by Compass USA and for this summer, Compass is looking for around 150 host families in Spokane. Compass USA arranges homestays for foreign students.
“Families fill out an application and then we do a background check,” said Cheryl Davila, youth program coordinator with Compass USA. “Then we do a home visit to finalize the paperwork and let the family pick their student.”
Host families for the 14 adults that travel with the group are also needed.
The students are a mix of boys and girls and they all come from the same high school.
“They are between 15 and 16 years old,” said Davila, who began searching for host families in January and still needs quite a few homes for this summer’s group. The students arrive July 21 and leave Aug. 10.
During their stay, the Japanese students attend classes in English and American culture at Manito Presbyterian Church, and they go on excursions to Sandpoint, Silverwood and other places.
“The host families are not reimbursed, but we don’t expect them to spend any extra money on the students,” said Davila, adding that Compass will help work out carpool schedules and put on barbecues at host family homes.
“We place one student in each home,” said Davila, “because if we place two together they tend to talk to each other instead of interacting with the host family.”
Compass hires local teens to help out with classes during the day.
“The Japanese students want to be like American teens,” Davila said. “Having the local teens there makes everyone’s job so much easier.”
Compass is in its 25th year in Spokane. The first year only 22 students came.
Davila said it would be nice to expand the program even more, but that’s only possible as long as there are enough host families.
“Some families host year after year, they really get involved in the program,” Davila said.