5 News Committed to You: exchange students need homes

Buckhannon, W.Va. (WDTV) - Five years ago, Jodi Harley became a host mother for a foreign exchange student. Now, Harley still hosts students, but also works to place them with host families.

"I try to find as many good homes that I can for these students," Harley said.

The kids come to the U.S. through a program called FLAG....Foreign Links Around the Globe. Out of the thousands of kids who apply for the program, only 300 are chosen.

"[The program] only takes the top of the top. These are the best of the best...the smartest," said Harley.

Currently, the program has about 150 kids placed, but still needs to find host families for the rest. Jodi says sometimes, people have fears and stereotypes that keep them from opening their hearts and homes.

"We had a girl from Tajikistan and i have a boy coming from Turkmenistan...a lot of people don't know those countries or understand where they're from...so they tend to shy away from them and sometimes it's a little bit of stereotyping," Harley said.

Michelle McCartney, who already has 5 kids of her own, took in her first student last year...a boy named Christian from Germany. She said the experience was life changing for her whole family.

"He fit right in. He taught us about his culture and we taught him about ours. he's an amazing kid and it was a life changing experience," McCartney said.

Pablo Alonso, a 16-year-old student from Spain who just ended the program, said West Virginia was a great place to attend school.

"It was one of the best times of my life. I met some incredible people and I'll never forget it," he said.

"I'm hoping to attend WVU next fall and I want to study engineering," said Pablo.

These students...and the families who host them...just want people to give them a chance.

"To host a child from another country is one of the best things someone can ever do...it'll change your life forever. Getting to know people from other countries is something I think is priceless," Pablo said.

If you're interested in hosting a student, visit flaginternational.org