Lawmakers endorse study of foreign exchange student placement in Arkansas
By Rob Moritz, Arkansas News Bureau,
Posted on 21 December 2007
LITTLE ROCK - The Legislative Council on Friday endorsed a proposal to study placement of foreign exchange students with host families in Arkansas.
Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, said she proposed the study after receiving complaints that some foreign exchange students were being placed in homes with families ill-equipped to take care of them.
Madison also noted recent reports that the U.S. State Department was investigating complaints about where a Massachusetts company had placed some foreign exchange students arriving in Arkansas.
That investigation, involving the Education First Foundation for Foreign Study and its Fayetteville coordinators, involves allegations that exchange students stayed at the homes of the coordinators.
Federal regulations prohibit employees of a foreign exchange company from serving as both a host family and area supervisor for a student.
Madison’s proposal asks the Senate Interim Committee on Children and Youth to study the issue and report its findings to Legislative Council.
“Some parents came to me about problems they’ve seen in Northwest Arkansas,” Madison said Friday, also noting problems she heard of in Clarksville and Hot Springs.
In Clarksville, Madison said, a student from Korea was placed with a family living in low-income housing. The student would write home asking her parents for money to help feed her host family, she said.
“At that point, she asked to be moved to another family and representatives from the company set up a table outside a Wal-Mart to recruit her another family,” Madison said. “They found her another family and this time the male of the household was arrested on a drug charge.”
The State Department, which currently has oversight authority, does not have adequate staff to oversee the foreign exchange program, Madison said. California has enacted a law that gives its attorney general’s office some oversight authority, she said.
The California law requires any person or group that arranges the placement of foreign exchange students in California elementary, junior high or high schools to register with the attorney general’s office before making the placement.
Copyright © Arkansas News Bureau, 2003 - 2006
Student Exchange Agency: Education First Foundation for Foreign Study
TV clip re Arkansas (to follow)
News: State to Examine Foreign Exchange Student Program
©2007 Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved.
Foreign exchange programs to the US under the microscope
By Stefan M Hogan, December 12, 2007, The Slovak Spectator
THE CASE of Roland Gomory, a 17-year-old Slovak currently studying in Galveston, Texas, recently compelled The Slovak Spectator to investigate allegations that his safety and privacy were in jeopardy.
The conclusion reached last week was that an employee of the organization sponsoring Gomory's stay in the United States had violated internal policy and demonstrated a lapse of judgment, but that Gomory was never put at significant risk.
Nonetheless, the case inspired the Spectator to conduct a general review of the program that brings foreign exchange students to the US and some of the organizations that sponsor them.
A close call
Gomory is sponsored by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), a non-profit organization based in Portland, Maine that has been organizing international study and foreign exchange programs since 1947. It currently supervises about 50,000 program
participants each year.
On December 3, The Slovak Spectator was informed by the Committee for the Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES), a California-based watchdog agency, that an advertisement about Gomory had been posted on the popular website Craigslist.com on November 19 by a CIEE employee.
The ad was entitled "Boy Who Loves Fashion Needs a Host Family" and did not include Gomory's name, describing him instead only as "a foreign exchange student from Slovakia who comes from a wealthy family, so he LOVES to go shopping for clothes."
More troublingly, the advertisement included an offer to send Gomory's personal profile upon request, as well as a sentence that could easily be misinterpreted: "He is very compliant and will do anything you ask."
To test CIEE's screening process, the CSFES promptly requested Gomory's profile from the e-mail address listed on the ad, writing only "When you get a moment, might you send me the student from Slovakia's profile". Within five minutes, it received a 25-page .pdf file containing a mountain of sensitive personal data, including Gomory's name, birth date, several pictures and copies of his visa to the United States.
CIEE has since conducted its own investigation, which resulted in the dismissal of the employee responsible for the ad.
"It was an error that will not be allowed to be repeated," Stevan Trooboff, CIEE's President and CEO, told The Slovak Spectator.
Oversight through the J visa program
Gomory, like thousands of foreigners each year, was in the United States as part of the Exchange Visitor Program. Established in 1961 by the provisions of the Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act, the program is comprised of 15 categories of exchange (one of which is for high school students) that qualify visitors for a J visa, allowing them to stay in the US for varying lengths of time.
But before receiving a J visa, an applicant must be sponsored by one of the 1,500 entities designated by the US Department of State to conduct exchange programs. These entities include colleges/universities, government agencies, non-profit and private sector organizations.
"To become a sponsor, the organizations must meet a number of specific regulatory requirements for designation as set forth in (federal law)," Catherine L. Stearns, Spokesperson for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State, told The Slovak Spectator. "In addition, they must have a minimum of one year experience in international exchange, and must demonstrate financial solvency necessary to administer a program."
Students are matched with sponsors through an agent, often their school or a travel agency in their home country.
Federal law requires that prior to arriving in the US, sponsors must provide students with the name of the school they will attend, the name and contact information of the family that will host them and information about the community in which they will live, Stearns said.
As far as when and how the State Department investigates allegations of mistreatment or error, Stearns responded: "The Department investigates any concern brought to our attention.
Complaints can come from a variety of sources: a student, school, parent, host family, etc."
And on the issue of using the internet to find host families, Stearns said: "The Department regulations do not specifically address how host families are to be identified. However, given recent concerns raised regarding the means by which sponsors are locating host families, the Department is reviewing this matter."
CIEE and InterExchange CIEE limits the age of its participants to just over 18 - 15 to 18.5, to be exact - which makes screening host families especially important.
"There is a complex procedure for screening including a home interview, criminal background checks and personal references checked by Local Staff," Trooboff from CIEE told the Spectator.
"Many of the families who host participants are personally known by our Local Coordinators who are charged with finding placements."
If the exchange students need assistance during their stay in America, there is very much a safety net, Trooboff said.
"Each local coordinator files a monthly report on each student; how they're doing, etc., which means they are in regular contact with the student," he said. "We also check in with schools and run a 24/7 help line that every student is reminded about in orientation and in all written materials."
"Students who need help get help," he added. "We are proactive not just reactive."
Peter Fillo, a 24-year-old computer science student who went to Los Angeles in 2005 as part of the Work and Travel Program, another category in the Exchange Visitor Program, had a similar impression of his sponsor InterExchange, a New York-based non-profit organization.
Because Fillo was older than 18.5, he was given the option of finding accommodation and employment himself. During his three months in the US, his sponsor never checked on his status, but did provide quick and effective assistance when he needed it.
"They were very nice, helpful and polite," he told the Spectator.
The role of parents
Both CIEE and the State Department stress the need for parents to stay involved in their child's foreign exchange experience.
"Students and parents should contact the host family to make an introduction," Stearns from the State Department said. "That's why they are provided with that information."
Trooboff from CIEE said: "All parents worry about their children, and they should. However, by working with their agents in the home country, picking one that has a good partner in the US and keeping in touch their child and host family, they too can be part of the process and help assure their children's welfare. We certainly understand their
For more information on CIEE, visit www.ciee.org. For InterExchange, visitwww.interexchange.org.
Student Exchange Agency: CIEE
Exchange group gets probe after teens complain
by Robert J. Smith, December 9, 2007, Arkansas Democrat Gazette
The U. S. State Department is investigating complaints about where a Massachusetts company places foreign-exchange students arriving in Northwest Arkansas.
The eight cases involve Education First Foundation for Foreign Study and its Fayetteville coordinators, Gerald D. and Sherry A. Drummond, said Stanley Colvin, director of the State Department’s office of exchange coordination and designation. Six of the eight cases involve students attending Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville Christian School or Mission Boulevard Baptist School. The others attended schools in Northwest Arkansas but now live in Camden or Kentucky, Colvin said.
The complaints center on the nonprofit firm’s failure to find appropriate homes for some students before they arrive, as well as on how and where the Drummonds place the students.
“This is sloppy work,” Colvin said of the foundation’s operation in Arkansas.
The State Department is investigating whether Cambridge, Mass.-based Education First, better known as EF Foundation, violated a federal regulation by allowing some students to live in the Drummond home without assigning another EF employee as a supervisor, Colvin said.
Federal regulations require foreign-exchange companies to “ensure that no organizational representative act as both host family and area supervisor for any exchange student participant.”
“If there was an emergency and she had to remove a child from a home and keep the student for a one-night kind of thing, that’s not a violation,” Colvin said.
It wasn’t clear last week whether EF Foundation had assigned a separate supervisor.
Sherry Drummond, 53, refused to answer questions about the allegations of students and host families.
“It hurts me too much, because I’ve put so much into this,” she said.
She deferred to EF Foundation spokesman Ellen Manz, who requested that questions be sent by e-mail. She didn’t respond to those queries.
The State Department investigation — expected to be complete in a few days — began after state Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, received complaints from host families and foreign-exchange students about EF Foundation and the Drummonds. The students and their current host families in Northwest Arkansas told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week how foreign-exchange students lived in what they considered unclean, unsafe homes and how they felt disliked by Sherry Drummond when they stayed with her. They also complained that the Drummonds improperly served the dual role of host family and organization representative for several students, making it awkward for the students to voice their concerns.
Rikke Stoyva, a Fayetteville High School student from Norway, didn’t care for emphasis on religion by her host family, John and Jill Foster. The family attended nondenominational church services three times a week in West Fork.
Stoyva, who is Lutheran, lived with the Fosters for three months, then was moved to Camden, where she’s attending Camden Fairview High School. She is living with EF representative Leigh Horton, Horton said Friday.
Colvin said he’s also looking into complaints that foreign-exchange students sat at tables at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market and in front of a Wal-Mart trying to convince shoppers to allow other students into their homes.
“It’s not appropriate, but it’s not a violation of the law,” Colvin said. “It may be an indication of underlying regulatory violations. Why were they down there doing that ?”
It’s been a difficult year for foreign students at Fayetteville High. In September, student Marije Stam of the Netherlands repeatedly came to school upset and crying, she said, until counselors helped her move from the Drummond home.
“I did not feel like a guest, or at least a family member,” said Stam, 17, who lived in the Drummond house for a month and is now staying with Russ and Mara Cole of Fayetteville.
“I do not know how to express my feelings at that moment, but in my country, I would say [Sherry Drummond ] made me feel like a dog,” she said.
Mara Cole, along with Madison, spent much of last week spurring the State Department to investigate EF Foundation, the Drummonds and how the company operates in Arkansas. They sent statements from students and host families to Beth Melofchik, a State Department educational- and cultural-exchange specialist, describing what they say EF and the Drummonds did and failed to do. “I think we have an extra-special obligation to bring these foreign-exchange students to our country and to take good care of them, and I don’t think that’s happening here,” Madison said.
Fayetteville High teachers and counselors said they’ve had frequent issues with the Drummonds and EF Foundation placements. They’ve complained to officials in the foundation’s headquarters about the Drummonds and believe the organization did nothing in response. “I only hear about the bad [situations ], and there are several each year that are miserable for the student, and the placement in the homes get changed and the students have to be moved,” said Anne Butt, the high school’s college adviser for nine years.
Butt said she took a German student into her home four years ago because EF Foundation put her into a Springdale home she disliked.
Lesli Zeagler, a Fayetteville High counselor, said there are few problems with the international students attending the school who are brought to the United States by Rotary International. Not true with EF Foundation, she said.
“With EF, I’ve experienced students who are scared, who seem to be malnourished, and they seem to be isolated,” Zeagler said. “The problems go back years, but we’ve never had a group of students who have been so vocal about it.”
Doug Wright, a Fayetteville High counselor, was the counselor at Elkins High School last year. Among the nine foreign-exchange students at that school, five came to the States with the help of EF Foundation.
One EF placement was an Asian girl put in a home where the host parents were going through a divorce. The woman moved out and the man was left behind with the student, Wright said. The school reported it to EF Foundation and the girl was moved to the wife’s home, said Becky Martin, Elkins High School principal.
That instance, however, isn’t part of the State Department investigation.
“There were some questionable placements in Elkins,” Wright said. “I can’t think of a non-EF kid who had a problem.”
Boglarka “Boszi” Palko, a national history champion in Hungary who’s attending Fayetteville High, found herself in an awkward situation when she arrived at the Springdale home of Bobby and Sue Hawkins on Aug. 4.
Palko, 18, said she was never happy in the small house, where she was asked to live with the Hawkinses and their 17-year-old daughter. Cousins and grandchildren also regularly spent the night.
Family members smoked inside the house. Palko said she had instructions to put toilet paper in the trash can rather than flush it. That plus cigarette smoke made the house smell bad, Palko said.
Palko said Hawkins family members described her as “overeducated” and as a “present” for their daughter. Bobby Hawkins, a close friend of the Drummonds, told Palko she’d need to understand “redneck English” to survive in the home, Palko said.
Palko said she also was accused of having a sexual relationship while she lived in the home. She denies the accusation.
Sue Hawkins invited a Democrat-Gazette reporter to see her Oak Street home last week then wouldn’t allow him inside. The tan-colored house was well-kept on the outside.
Palko lived eight days in the Hawkins home, then was moved to the 41-year-old, 2, 100-squarefoot Drummond home near Lake Sequoyah. In order to move, she had to sign an EF Foundation “behavioral agreement” that described the Hawkins home as “suitable” and that the problems she’d encountered were her fault.
“Sherry hated me,” Palko said. “When you speak with someone, you can feel it.”
She was moved five days later to the Fayetteville home of Dave and Brenda Servies. Sherry and Gerald Drummond visited the home to check it out, and family members passed a criminal-background check, which is required by the State Department. Palko said she’s been content in the Servies home. She’s visited local stores, loves Northwest Arkansas Mall and made her first trip last week to a Hobby Lobby crafts store. She’ll travel with the Servies as part of a Christmas trip to Florida. “I’m talking about what happened with the other people to protect the next kids from this,” Palko said. “It won’t be good for us to talk, but I can protect the next ones by letting people know.”
Among the most troubling issues in Arkansas are the stories of Gerald and Sherry Drummond serving as host family and EF Foundation representatives, said Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for the Safety of Foreign Exchange Students. The 2-year-old watchdog organization monitors foreign-exchange organizations.
Having a different EF Foundation representative serve as a supervisor doesn’t protect foreign-exchange students, she said.
“What neutrality does that provide the student when she has a concern about her host father or host mother ?” Grijalva said. “Is that not a recipe for disaster ? It’s a disgrace.”
Grijalva also expressed concerns about Stoyva, the Norwegian student placed in the Fosters’ home who’s now in Camden. The EF Foundation handbook says “we are not trying to change the student’s beliefs or convert anyone to a new faith.”
Efforts to reach Stoyva in Camden were unsuccessful. Horton, the EF representative in whose home Stoyva now lives, refused to let her come to the phone Friday, saying she’s a minor. School officials and state Sen. Gene Jeffress, D-Louann, refused to ask Stoyva to return messages.
“She’s doing wonderful now,” said Jeffress, a retired Fairview teacher who went to check on Stoyva last week. “She’s in a better situation now. She conveyed that to me.”
John Foster said his family didn’t try to change Stoyva’s beliefs and that the family knew of her Lutheran upbringing. He’d communicated with her by email before she came to the States about the family’s frequent visits to Unity Covenant Church in West Fork. The family attends church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Stoyva knew what to expect, Foster said. “I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” said Foster, 28, a Fayetteville police officer assigned to work at Fayetteville High. “We felt like we gave Rikke a good home. “ Church was the only place we saw her smile at all. If loving your child and trying your hardest is something bad, then we did something wrong. We tried as hard as we could to make it work.”
EF FOUNDATION Madison said she was told by an EF Foundation employee that the Drummonds are paid $300 to $400 for each foreignexchange student placed in a family’s home, including their own. The Drummonds received $12 per student, per month, for verifying the students are doing well and helping with difficulties they encounter, Madison said.
Grijalva said most foreign-exchange student companies pay $400 to $750 for each student who is placed in a home. Host families aren’t paid.
The payment is a small portion of the $5, 000 for six months or $10, 000 for a year that the students pay EF Foundation to come to the United States.
Around 30, 000 exchange students come to America annually, said Colvin of the State Department’s exchange coordination office, adding the State Department investigates about 200 complaints each year. About 20 percent involve students brought to the United States by EF Foundation, Colvin said.
As part of its investigation in Arkansas, Colvin said the State Department could reprimand the company and require it to write a corrective-action plan to ensure it doesn’t violate federal regulations.
A more severe penalty could involve shutting down the corporation or limiting how many students it can bring to the United States.
Colvin sent a letter Thursday to the EF Foundation describing five media accounts and complaints last week regarding the organization. “This is not a pretty picture,” he concluded in the letter.
John Hishmeh, director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, is familiar with the complaints coming from Northwest Arkansas. The nonprofit council monitors and distributes information about exchange programs.
“Things go wrong, and you have to figure out if it’s a catastrophic failure or a single thing that went
wrong,” Hishmeh said.
Connie Williams, a counselor at Springdale High School for 35 years, said it’s wrong to “pinpoint” EF Foundation as problematic because she’s had difficulty with other companies, too. Eight foreign-exchange students are attending the school this year, she said.
“I’ve never particularly had trouble with EF, but I’ve had trouble with another agency,” Williams said.
Brad and Sarah Campbell, who are hosting a German student in their Fayetteville home, fear problems with foreign-exchange companies in Northwest Arkansas could have long-term consequences.
“These are high-achieving kids who were selected to come here,” Brad Campbell said. “They are diplomats. They want to know what it’s like in America, and they invest a year of their life to be here.
We owe them a good experience. Their opinions of the U. S. are being formed.
“ We’re not saying you have to be millionaires to have these kids, but you do have to have a solid foundation. A lot of the households aren’t solid. They are disruptive and filled with turmoil.”
Education First Foundation for Foreign Study, founded in 1979, is the country’s largest foreign-exchange company.
More than 100 companies bring students to the United States, said John Hishmeh, director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel. The council has certified about 70, including EF Foundation.
About 30, 000 foreign-exchange students travel to the United States each year and few report problems, Hishmeh said.
EF Foundation brought 3, 712 students from more than 40 countries in the year ending Sept. 30, 2006, according to the foundation’s most recent federal tax filings.
The foundation’s income tax exemption submitted to the Internal Revenue Service last February reported its 2006 revenue was $10, 047, 865.
The company’s Web site is at www. effoundation. org.
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Student Exchange Agency: EF Foundation
Foreign exchange program controversy
Saturday, December 01, 2007 | 12:07 PM
An Eyewitness News Exclusive
The Eyewitness News Investigators
NEW YORK -- -- The U.S. State Department is investigating whether a major non-profit foreign exchange agency violated regulations by not having proper homes in place for visiting students.
Local families who thought they'd have kids for a few weeks say they got stuck with students who had nowhere to go.
The Investigators Sarah Wallace has more on this exclusive story.
State Department regulations are clear -- before a foreign exchange student comes to in the United States the sponsoring agency is supposed to have secured a home placement and a school placement for the year.
Well now there are allegations that an agency called ASSE International has blatantly violated those regulations. ASSE denies it.
"I just think it's wrong. It's wrong all around " said Michele Renaud.
Michele Renaud thought it would be a great experience for her son TJ to have foreign visitors. So this summer, she welcomed Hee-Sung from Korea, to stay while he attended an English language camp in Putnam County. She also took in Lenny from France -- both students would then go to a different, permanent home for the school year.
Sarah Wallace: "Your understanding was you'd have them for how long?" Michele: "Four weeks."
The sponsoring agency, ASSE International, is headquartered in California, with area representatives in several states, including New York.
"They did not have placement for either one of my boys ... And could I keep them for a few more days. ... And it was going on the third month," Michele said.
Ira Drescher and his family, who also live in Putnam County, took in three exchange students -- two from Japan, and one from France.
"We found out none of them had placement. I mean we were told they all had placement and they'd be here for a month," Ira said.
The Dreschers say they scrambled to get the students enrolled in the local school because ASSE had done nothing. Federal regulations require that a school placement is secured before students arrive.
Michele Renaud echoes the Dreschers.
"We went to the school. They were not even registered. The school didn't even have their names," she said.
"Those students, before they departed their home country, were supposed to be promised a properly screened and secured host family, as well as a high school," Danelle Grijalva said.
Danelle Grijalva says her Internet based watchdog group has received complaints about ASSE from families in nine different states.
Independently, we received several e-mails and phone calls. One area representative writes: "This has been a bait and switch program from the beginning."
"To get them here and have them fend for themselves and just hope that the temporary families fall in love with them is a recipe for disaster," Danelle said.
In Buffalo, New York we heard a disturbing case of a young girl from Thailand happily living in a temporary house, then placed by ASSE with a family living in a mobile home on the side of the road in the Adirondacks.
"She was distraught. She was crying," Barbara said.
Barbara Costuros says she drove four hours each way to bring 18-year-old Sufrete back to Buffalo.
"It was dirty ... I see mice ... yes I was scared" Sufrete said.
Sufrete says she was told by ASSE she'd be sent back to Thailand if she didn't stay in the Adirondacks.
But her parents, who paid more than $10,000 to the agency, had had enough.
She flew home.
ASSE declined to be interviewed but released this statement: "ASSE is has always been committed to full compliance with all U.S. Department of State regulatory requirements governing its programs."
When we visited the Dreschers several weeks ago, they decided to keep their French student for the year. But with two children of their own, the family just could not keep the other students.
"They start school, they get upset. It's very disturbing to them. ... All of them is too much," Ira said.
Michele Renaud still had one of her foreign students waiting for a permanent placement,as well.
"It just feels that we were lied to ... blatantly lied to," Michele said.
The students from Putnam County have all now been placed in permanent homes, although a couple of them say they found families on their own without ASSE's help. The Agency claims as of a few weeks ago, all its students had been placed.
Student Exchange Agency: ASSE International
Pune girl is back home after abuse by US family
Mumbai News -- Mumbai Mirror Online Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Pune: Little did the 16-year-old Nikita Dhavle know when she left Pune for the US with dreams that she would return home within three months with a fractured hand and a scarred mind.
Nakita, a bright student of a city school, selected under a cultural exchange programme of American Field Service (AFS), landed in the state of Minnesota in the first week of August unaware of the hostility that awaited her in the form of the host famiy in Pipestone. "I was asked to do cleaning of kitchen, dining room, wash clothes of the entire family, clean utensils, mow the lawn. I also cleaned up the barn where horses were kept," the girl, who returned to India after a stotuous stay on October 26, said.
Nikita had joined the Raff family in Piepstone after the AFS screening of the host. Two weeks later, she was shocked when the host's teenaged Ryan, on probation for drunken driving, returned home. "I had not been told about this boy. He abused me."
Nikita, who joined the Pipestone Central School to utilise her 11-month stay under the programme, said: "I saw the boy and the mom argue and wrestle and each other on the floor."
A fall in the horse barn fractured her left hand. The Raffs took her to hospital to plaster it but did not care to keep the follow-up dates with the doctor, Nikita recounted. She spoke to her parents in Pune and sent an e-mail to AFS functionaries in Delhi urging them to bring her back.
Student Exchange Agency:
American Field Service (AFS)
Montgomery Lawyer Given 18 Years for Child Sex Abuse
September 28, 2007 - Rockville, Md. ABC 7 News -
(link to follow)
Student Exchange Agency:
For complete story released by Washington Post on November 27, 2006:
Sex Allegations Swirled Around Md. Man Before
by Ernesto Londono, Washington Post Staff Writer
Student Exchange Agency:
July 20, 2007
Host Families Needed Quickly
Camp to be Held Locally
By Scott Price, Contributing Writer
Eighteen foreign exchange students are scrambling to find area host
families after their cultural camp plans changed.
The camp, which was to be in Waxahachie, has been rescheduled for
July 26 to Aug. 25 in Roanoke. All of the students need nearby
families for the cultural enrichment camp, which is designed to
help the students learn American culture and to brush up on their
The camp is sponsored by ASSE International Student Exchange
Programs, which started by the Swedish government in 1976 as the
American-Scandinavian Student Exchange by the Swedish government
but has expanded to 31 participating countries.
Pam Bilton, an ASSE area coordinator, said the students looking for
local host families include six students from France, three from
Japan, three from Taiwan, two from China, two from Germany and two
Bilton said a total of 39 students, most of whom have host families,
will participate in the Roanoke camp. All are proficient in
"They are all coming for the academic school year, but not all of
them are staying in Texas," she said. "They come a month early to
go to the camp to practice their English and learn the culture."
The students will study in class four days a week and on the fifth
day will go on an excursion to a nearby city.
The students also plan to volunteer one day at the Roanoke Senior
Center, Bilton said.
Bilton, of Roanoke, said that she hopes host families can be found
nearby in the Northwest school district and in Southlake, Grapevine,
Colleyville and Flower Mound. She said the experience is not only
helpful to the students but is a good way for families to have a
brief experience with the foreign student exchange program.
In addition to the students who are scheduled to attend the camp in
Roanoke, ASSE is still looking for area host families for the
2007-2008 academic year.
Without host families, the students will not be able to participate
in the exchange program this year.
"It is their dreams that will be shattered, if they can't come,"
Bilton said the Lewisville School District has nine slots available
for foreign exchange students, Northwest High School has five slots,
Argyle High School has one, and Carroll Senior High School also has
This is Bilton's second year as a coordinator, and she is also
hosting two students in her home. She said she has been knocking
on doors to spread the word about the need for host families.
"Just please help," Bilton said. "This is an emergency situation."
Bilton said the most pressing issue is to find host families during
the camp in Roakoke. The students will arrive in a week.
For information about hosting a student this summer or for the
entire school year, contact Bilton at 817-430-4795.
To find out more about ASSE International Student Exchange Programs,
go to www.asse.com.
Contact our newsroom:
Flower Mound Newsroom: 972-724-3280
Flower Mound Messenger Argyle Messenger
Student Exchange Agency:
Sun June 10, 2007, The Oklahoman
Bayard Rustin Living Learning Center tales differ
By Randy Ellis
Lorenz and fellow foreign exchange students Daniel Balser, 17, of Germany and Petr Dolecek, 17, of the Czech Republic told The Oklahoman that Bayard Rustin provided them and three other exchange students with one bizarre surprise after another.
While Lorenz was dealing with cockroaches Balser and Dolecek were placed in Storrs' home. Balser said he came to Oklahoma City with the understanding he would be living with former Bayard Rustin Principal Sean Lee. But after arriving, he learned Storrs would be his host.
Balser said Storrs told him he was gay, but not being familiar with all the nuances of the language, he thought Storrs might be saying that he was a "happy person.”
Balser said he realized Storrs was a homosexual after meeting his gay roommate.
"They didn't do anything to us. Just the feeling wasn't so cool,” he said.
Dolecek said he understood before he came to Oklahoma City that Storrs was homosexual, but it wasn't a big deal to him.
The students said they had never heard of Bayard Rustin when the exchange program notified them that they would have an opportunity to attend school there.
They said they looked up the school on the Internet, but about all they discovered was that Bayard Rustin was a private school that embraced students from diverse social and racial backgrounds and received part of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Gates Foundation tie seemed promising.
"I thought it was a prestigious school,” Dolecek said, adding he also thought it might be high tech.
He was wrong.
An IBM employee who worked on the computers said some of them were so old they wouldn't load 10-year-old software. Storrs said he bought the computers cheap as surplus property.
As for the school, students said they were surprised to discover it was located in a warehouse on E Reno Avenue. They were even more surprised when officials packed up and moved the school a few weeks into the fall semester. The new location at 726 Colbertson Drive is in a strip shopping center southeast of the state Capitol.
Jimmy Nix, the warehouse owner, said he was trying to evict Storrs when school officials moved.
"They were in there probably two or three months,” Nix said.
Nix said he received two bad checks from Storrs, along with a lot of excuses.
Other suppliers reported similar experiences.
And it wasn't just the suppliers who weren't being paid.
Former teachers told The Oklahoman they weren't, either, which prompted many of them to quit mid-semester.
"Most of the time, we were just sitting there doing nothing,” Balser said.
The students said they would have one morning class, then do whatever. Fights frequently broke out between students, they said.
The state Education Department never stepped in because it doesn't have oversight of private schools that don't seek accreditation, said department spokeswoman Shelly Hickman.
Dolecek said he thought it was strange the school didn't have money to pay teachers because it bought thousands of dollars in football equipment for a joint team with some charter schools.
The school still owes several thousand dollars on the equipment, an employee of the business that sold the equipment said.
Storrs said Bayard Rustin is a private school that doesn't charge tuition. He admits money was a constant problem.
The school's two primary sources of funding were a $150,000 model schools grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and federal money the school collected for doing after-school tutoring of Oklahoma City students, Storrs said.
Student Exchange Agency: ASSE International
Exchange-student problems bring shake-up
by Randy Ellis, The Oklahoman, June 10, 2007
Student Exchange Agency:
Bayard Rustin Living Learning Center tales differ
by Randy Ellis, The Oklahoman, June 10, 2007
Three high school foreign exchange students had high expectations last summer after they learned they had been accepted into a private Oklahoma City school funded in part with a grant from Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates' foundation.
Nobody said anything about fights in classrooms. Nobody said anything about living with convicted felons. Nobody said anything about cockroaches.
Those were things they had to learn from experience.
Student Exchange Agency:
EF student's death in another country shifts focus on Malta
By Kurt Farrugia, 10 August 2007
The Malta Tourism Authority chairman Sam Mifsud said that the damaging reports in the Swedish press were aimed at the international language school EF because one of its students died while on a language trip in another country.
"The Swedish press is focusing on the destinations where this company operates, which also includes Malta and showing people the way EF handles their students overseas. Although this is bad publicity for us [Malta] this was really aimed at EF," Mr Mifsud said.
On Wednesday maltastar.com reported the damaging articles in the Swedish media on the way language students are treated in Malta. The reports said students in Malta have "sex on the beach, unlimited access to alcohol, drugs and nightlife."
Sam Mifsud told maltastar.com that MTA is in the process of setting up a think thank made up of two persons from various associations to come up with a plan for next year to try to control the students.
This proposal is not the first of its kind. When similar reports surfaced in Scandavian press in summer 2005 and 2006, the tourism Ministry and the MTA had promised to set up a network made up of people from the tourism industry, MTA, language schools and police.
Maltastar.com is informed that this network was never set up and thus in 2007, the situation has not improved over previous years.
Malta's tourism figures in recent years have been very dependent on the language student's sector. But tourism operates and businesses dependent on tourism are not too keen on language students because of their low purchasing power coupled with their behaviour tends to shoo away the more "wealthy" tourists.
Despite this, the sector is still very important if regulated appropriately. To date, government has not taken concrete action which is damaging the language student business and also tourism in Malta in general, sources in the tourism industry said.
The reports in the Swedish press were damaging to the extent that several readers' letters appeared in newspapers. One parent wrote about the easy access her minor child had to alcohol and suggested to other parents not to send their children on such language trips.
Other letters complained about irresponsible group leaders and said most of them were drunk. Some though deemed "some" leaders as responsible. The MTA chairman told maltastar.com that the MTA was informed of the reports in the Swedish press.
Mr Mifsud said: "A Swedish student of EF language school was killed in another country and they are focusing on the destinations where this company operates, including Malta. They are showing people the way EF handles their students overseas."
Asked to comment on the reports in the Swedish press, Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech had nothing to add to what the MTA said. Dr Zammit Dimech only said that the MTA is in the process of setting up a group made up of two representatives from each of the relevant associations in order to come up with a precise and concrete action plan in respect of next year.
The Minister did not comment on his government's failed promises of setting up a similar committee in previous years.
Convicted Felons Allowed to Host Teenagers
Regulations Falling Short of Protecting Visiting Teens
The Seoul Times, April 14, 2007
The federal regulations were released on May 4, 2006, requiring for the first
time in five decades student exchange agencies to secure background checks for
all host families who decide to host an exchange student. The regulations also
require student exchange agencies to report all allegations of sexual
misconduct against a visiting youth to law enforcement and the U.S. Department
of State. "If they don't do it and we find out about it, we will close their
program down, period," said Stanley Colvin, acting director of the Federal
Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, in a September 5, 2005 story
in The Press-Enterprise, "New Rules: Federal Officials Draft Regulations to
Address Sexual Abuse of Visiting Foreign Youth" by Michael Fisher.
On September 6, 2006, The Reporter released, "DA Declines Suing Host in
Exchange Saga" by Julie Kay. "The 30-year-old Vacaville woman investigated on
suspicion of stealing money from and behaving inappropriately with an exchange
student she hosted last fall will not be charged with any crime, according to
the Solano County District Attorney's Office." Despite federal law, President
Libby Cryer, of the student's exchange agency, Program of Academic Exchange
(PAX), did not report this to the U.S. Department of State as required by
federal law. The September 6, 2006 story in The Reporter continues, "Cryer
admitted this week she knew about the e-mails to the young man from the first
host mother, but defended her decision not to report them to the State
Department, despite federal law which requires the reporting of questionable
behavior on the part of host family members."
Has Mr. Colvin shut down this agency as he so sternly stated to The
Press-Enterprise for not reporting to the State Department? No. Many wonder
why Mr. Colvin is not keeping his word and instead decides to look the other
way. Danielle Grijalva, Director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign
Exchange Students (CSFES) stated, "Unless and until these student exchange
groups respect and adhere to the federal regulations, these sloppy practices
of placing students with just anyone and anywhere will continue. It is beyond
irresponsible. This happens because these agencies clearly accept more students
than there are host families available."
In August, 2006, a student from the Czech Republic was placed in the home of a
five-time felon in New Mexico. The student resided in the home for five months
before his student exchange agency, Educational Resource Development Trust
(ERDT/SHARE!) removed him from the home. On March 19, 2007, CSFES filed a
complaint with the U.S. Department of State, asking how this man "was able to
host in the first place given the fact that background checks are mandatory?"
To date, the U.S. Department of State has yet to respond.
A recent study by Meaghan Kelleher of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) illustrates that name-based checks are not adequate and recommends fingerprint-based checks. The CSFES wants fingerprint-based checks because of NCMEC's study; it is the best screening method available.
Lubbock Pastor Faces More Charges, News Channel 11, kcbd.com
April 12, 2007
The Lubbock pastor accused of bringing a foreign exchange student to the United States in return for sexual services is facing more charges.
A federal grand jury indicted James Clark on the charge of importation of alien for immoral purposes. Clark is accused of bringing a girl from Kenya to the US and paying for her living expenses and tuition in exchange for sex.
Clark is also facing charges of compelling prostitution, money laundering and fraud.
A five-time felon who spent a total of 11 years in prison for various felonies to include embezzlement, grand theft and theft was allowed to host a foreign exchange student from Prague
Las Cruces Sun-News, March 17, 2007
Convicted felon fired from non-profit
Jenn Kistler Sun-News reporter
(link to follow)
Student Exchange Organization:
(Educational Resource Development Trust)
The Shreveport Times, February 14, 2007
Student coordinator faces child porn charge
A Shreveport man who has helped bring exchange students to local high schools was jailed
Wednesday on a child pornography charge.
Steven Douglas Divine, 50, of the 9400 block of West Montego Lane, faces one count of possession of child porn, according to Caddo Correctional Center booking records.
Judge John Mosley set his bond at $125,141.50, according to Caddo sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick. Divine turned himself in Wednesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Divine was the subject of a 2½-month investigation by sheriff's Detective Robert Greer, Chadwick said. In December, deputies searched Divine's Summer Grove neighborhood home and seized eight computers.
The Caddo district attorney's office conducted forensic analysis on Divine's equipment and found child pornography on computer hard drives and disks, Chadwick said.
Divine has worked with foreign exchange programs Nacel Open Door, based in St. Paul, Minn., and the Center for Cultural Interchange, in Chicago. A phone call from The Times to both organizations Wednesday night was not returned.
The sheriff's office said Divine also has been a private investigator.
CSFES Note: Any student participants who have any information or have been victimized are encouraged to call Detective Robert Greer: 318-681-0611. Students can also contact the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students: toll free 866-471-9203.
The News On 6 Video - Sunday, February 04, 2007
Foreign Exchange Student Recovering From Gunshot Wound
Student Exchange Agency:
EF Foundation for Foreign Study
Para elegir unos padres temporales Familia by Juan Fernando Merino/edip
February 03, 2007
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