Nancy Winebrenner has successfully placed 40 exchange students from around the world with host families in Sanders County since 2010.
Now Winebrenner is looking for a new crop of host families to help her give a true American West experience to kids from across the world.
“We place students with families from Kalispell to Noxon. Last year we had six exchange students across Flathead and Sanders counties,” Winebrenner said. “It’s so important to match the exchange student to the right family; it’s about quality not quantity.”
Winebrenner said the program was one that she completely fell in love with from the beginning. When given the chance to head the program in 2010, she had high hopes to see it grow in successes.
Though each year can see a handful of students come to the region for either a three-, six- or eight-month stay, it is the host families that truly make their experience something once in a lifetime.
Students range from 15 to 18 years old, they are self-sufficient and are looking for that amazing experience.
The International Cultural Exhanges Services (ICES) Montana page on Facebook has been putting the call out for the area since early July. The ICES not only highlights those that coordinate within different counties, but also highlights the potential students that are looking for placements.
“Students that come over have their own insurance, spending money and attend their host family’s local high school,” Winebrenner said.
Last year, Winebrenner placed six students within her catchment area.
“I like to be involved in the whole process so the families and the students know that there is support, friendship and guidance all the way through the experience,” she said. “I have loved every moment, from reading the applications of the students waiting for host families, to finding that wonderful family who will volunteer to host a child and share our culture with.”
Just this past month saw former students of the program come back to visit with host families.
This year has been a little more difficult to secure host families for potential exchange students. Usually at this stage, Winebrenner said she has one or two students matched with local families. Though that isn’t the case this year.
Understanding it is a big commitment and task to take on, she is hoping families could be in the position help and open up their home even if its just for a short exchange.
For Sanders County there are four to six students looking to come and begin the school year here at the end of the month.
From Spain to Sweden, Hong Kong China to Finland, there are a handful of kids waiting in anticipation of a phone call or email to say they can start packing.
Winebrenner not only helps students that travel to the area with the exchange program, she also helps local students have those same experiences as well.
“It has been an amazing experience, making dreams come true and having students and host families connect and make life time connections. The students become your family and for me, it is an amazing experience helping host families through their hosting journey,” Winebrenner said.
Families interested in hosting an exchange student can contact Winebrenner by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.