Rotary Clubs around the world provide an opportunity for high school students to travel to a foreign land and live with a host family for a year.
According to the Rotary.org website, Rotary Youth Exchange students “learn a new language, discover another culture and truly become global citizens. Exchanges for students ages 15-19 are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries.”
Here in Susanville, Ayuka Saito, a youth exchange student from Japan, attends Lassen High School and excelled on the Lassen High School Swim Team. In a meet last October, Saito competed in the 50-yard freestyle, finishing in 26.54 (a new personal best), and competed in the 100-yard freestyle with a new best time of 58.49 — placing her second in both events and qualifying her for the Masters.
This fall, Lassen High School’s Therese Bertotti travels to Switzerland as a Rotary Youth Exchange student. She said her grandmother hosted a foreign exchange student when her mother was young, and the student and her mom remain in touch.
The local Rotary Club’s participation in the program is reciprocal — the club hosts an exchange student from a foreign land in order to offer a similar experience to a local student.
“The two programs work together,’ said Rotarian David Teeter. “If you don’t have an outbound, you don’t have an inbound.”
Therese Bertotti, the club’s outgoing exchange student who will spend next year in Switzerland after she leaves in August, said she didn’t know much about foreign countries, but she wanted to educate herself.
“There are things I want to do in Switzerland, but really I just want to get to know the people,” Bertotti said.
Teeter asked Therese’s father, John Bertotti, how he felt about sending his daughter thousands of miles away to live with a family she’s never met.
“There is some trepidation there,” Bertotti said, “but it’s really comforting going through Rotary” because the family has seen the support system the club provides for exchange students.
Teeter said it takes both clubs — the Susanville Rotary Club and the Sunrise Rotary Club to implement the student exchange program locally.
If you would like to host an exchange student or if you have a child who would like to be a exchange student, call Angie Crowley at 257-2803.