NEW PALESTINE — There’s no question Dan and Trice Greene have a full and busy life. In addition to Dan being a firefighter for the Indianapolis Fire Department and Trice working as a middle school teacher in Washington Township, the couple are raising five children ranging from 4 to 13 years old.
Still, during the past three years, they’ve somehow found the time, space and patience to open their home to several foreign exchange students.
They’ll do it again in a few weeks when they welcome a high school student, Igor Siqueira from Brazil. He’ll be living with the family for the next 10 months while attending New Palestine High School.
“I initially thought it would be fun,” Dan said. “Then, when I really thought about it, I knew it would be fun, and we’d be helping a kid out. But in the end, you realize it is much more than that.”
For the past several years, the Greenes have taken part in the Council on International Educational Exchange program. Local CIEE coordinator Erin Amones, a resource teacher at Doe Creek Middle School, runs the program.
The CIEE is one of many student exchange programs in the U.S. Local families and school corporations have used various programs through the years.
All county school districts are ramping up their exchange programs. At least 10 students from other countries will stay with Hancock County families this coming school year.
Eastern Hancock Principal Dave Pfaff said his school will play host to three exchange students his coming school year. They work with Foreign Links Around the Globe and the Program of Academic Exchange.
He said having exchange students in county schools exposes his own students to cultures that otherwise they might not experience.
“We hope that it helps our students develop tolerance and appreciation for other cultures and the understanding that the world is more than just the U.S. and that people from other places are really just people like us,” Pfaff said.
Greenfield-Central High School counselor Kim Kile sits on the national board of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel program. She also helps coordinate G-C’s foreign exchange program.
Kile said G-C will host two foreign exchange students this coming year, the same as they have the past several years.
“We love the aspect of the cultural exchange with our foreign-exchange students,” Kile said. “They bring a new perspective on the world to our students and open their eyes to how small our world really is.”
She said it’s gratifying to see the local students embrace the exchange students, wanting to learn more about their country, language, likes and dislikes.
“More often than not, they discover that they have more in common with them than they ever expected,” Kile said.
While other county districts are set with host homes for the incoming students, Amones is still searching for families in New Palestine or Greenfield area to be a host home for several other students.
“Right now, we are looking for five more families,” Amones said.
This marks the fourth year Amones has been the local CIEE coordinator. She’s hoping to coordinate host families for at least 10 students this coming school year.
“For some of the kids, they’re just waiting to hear from us,” Amones said. “For others, this is their last opportunity, so we’re hoping some families will come forward.”
When the Greenes first opened their home to an exchange student a few years ago, Trice said she almost felt sorry for the girl from Brazil who came to live with them.
Mayara Siqueira – Igor’s sister – was, after all, coming to live in a small, slower-paced town as opposed to a big city.
However, Trice said the family quickly realized the international students can benefit from being exposed to small-town life, too.
“I kind of was a little hesitant thinking who would want to come to our little town, but I realized the small community would be good for her and comforting,” Trice said. “By the time they leave, everyone around town knows them, and they’re a real part of things, and that’s great.”
Amones works with the families and school administrators to make sure the students are accepted into the community. From the principals, counselors, teachers and coaches, it takes a group effort to make the exchange program work, Amones said.
“Even the coaches, when they know the student has had no experience, they let them on the team,” Amones said.
The Greenes say the opportunity to share their lives with a teen from another country has been a wonderful experience for the whole family.
“We just keep living our daily lives,” Trice said. “We do adjust it some, like maybe going downtown more to show them new things so they can experience Indiana, but we don’t cater to them.”
The Greenes feel by opening their home to strangers, they’re living life as they should, setting a good example of how to treat people.
“God’s ministry talks about gifts, and I think it is important to teach your kids the gift of hospitality,” Dan said. “When you have a stranger come into your home, our kids have to give up a room and share their parents with someone else.”
The difficult part about playing host to an exchange student is saying goodbye, the parents said.
“Having strangers in your house actually makes you a better person,” Dan said. “For five or 10 months, you sort of learn how to be a better person because you have a stranger in your house.”
Amones, whose family also plays host to exchange students, said the program really is a win-win for families and the students.
“In the end, the families end up making lifelong international friendships,” Amones said.
BECOMING A HOST FAMILY
If you’re interested in becoming a host family for an exchange student, there’s still time. Contact Erin Amones at (317) 366-3146 or email firstname.lastname@example.org