About the Author: Ann Stock serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
As American families prepare to send their children back to school, thousands of families and schools across the country are also welcoming young people from abroad to live with them and study in the United States. Nearly 27,000 international secondary school students come to the United States each year and are hosted by American families. Secretary Clinton recently took the opportunity to thank these American host families for opening their homes and hearts and personally engaging with people from all over the world.
Hosting not only makes a difference in the life of an exceptional student; it is also an enriching experience for host families and communities. Host families and communities have the opportunity to learn about other cultures and traditions, and often establish friendships that last a lifetime.
Some of the thousands of exceptional young people who come to study in the United States each year are participating in Department of State-sponsored exchanges. Through a rigorous competition, these students are carefully selected for leadership, language ability, academic achievement and motivation. They compete for scholarships to participate in programs that give them an in-depth understanding of democratic concepts such as student government, citizen empowerment, tolerance and respect for other cultures and religions, volunteerism and community action.
Host families exemplify some of our country's greatest values -- tolerance, generosity, civic engagement -- and the goodwill they exhibit helps to create a positive view of the United States that lasts a lifetime and has a ripple effect through American communities and the exchange students' communities abroad. Hosting is a wonderful way to share ideas, celebrate commonalities, bridge differences, challenge stereotypes, and experience a different culture.
I would like to join Secretary Clinton in commending host families for their role in creating the mutual understanding between people that is so critical to meet the needs of this and future generations. They exemplify citizen diplomacy at its best, and I hope the families who are hosting students this year will continue to spread the word about the importance and the rewards of exchange programs.
For more information about hosting a student on a U.S.-government sponsored educational exchange program, please visit the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs website.