Foreign exchange students in need of Milwaukee-area host families amid coronavirus outbreak

NOW: Foreign exchange students in need of Milwaukee-area host families amid coronavirus outbreak

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)-- With the coronavirus (COVID-19) affecting countries all over the world, foreign exchange student programs trying to find host families in the greater Milwaukee area are bracing for what could be a challenging placement season.

Every year PAX, or Program of Academic Exchange, is responsible for placing nearly 900 students in host family homes. Of those 900 students, about 125 of them need to be placed in the north region, which includes Wisconsin.

Marie Lackore, a Wisconsin Regional Development Manager for PAX, says the last three academic years have proved challenging to find host families. She says students can’t come to study in the U.S. unless they have a family.

“We’re still with a good number of students that we need to find host families for, so yeah it has been challenging,” adds Lackore. “People are more apprehensive with things going on in the world.”

Lackore says for now the coronavirus isn’t the main reason why families aren’t opening their doors, but it eventually could be.

“It has the potential to have an impact in a negative way, and we’re certainly hoping that it doesn’t,” said Lackore.

Mother of four, Jennifer King has opened her Racine home for foreign exchange students for 13 years. She’s hosted students from Spain, China, France and Jordan. King says she loves it.

“My oldest son, when we had the two kids from China, he learned Chinese in two years,” said King. “You know, you see the connections and the relationships being built.”

Lackore says students undergo thorough medical testing before coming to the U.S.

“Those students have to be in to a doctor, they have to have a physical examination, they have to make sure their immunizations are up date,” said Lackore.

“There are just so many people actively working to make sure that this is done in a way that’s good for everyone,” King says.

The U.S. Department of State oversees a number of foreign exchange student programs. An official tells us as of now, no foreign exchange student programs have been cancelled.

In a statement they say:

“We are working with our interagency partners to protect U.S. citizens at home and abroad from the spread of the virus, including appropriate monitoring or quarantines by health authorities and through travel restrictions on at-risk individuals where appropriate.”

Lackore says they need families willing before the deadline approaches on August 31.  

“Any host families out there that maybe have thought about hosting, just do it,” she adds.  

Lackore says often times families feel they need to have grandiose experiences when hosting an exchange student, but that’s not the case, she says these students just want to experience family life in America.

If you’re interested in becoming a host family for a student overseas, click here.

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