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Area rep also sought to help place foreign exchange students


By Miriam Raftery

Hear our radio  interview  on KNSJ with Karen Toledo  from the ISE (Click audio link, top left)

June 10, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Families are wanted to host international exchange students in East County and across our region, says Karen Toledo, assistant manager for the International Student Exchange (ISE) locally.  An area rep is also sought to help place the many students eager for local homes for the next semester—and those who place 7 students or more will be rewarded with a trip to Ireland.

Toledo, a Lemon Grove resident knows first-hand the joys of the program, having hosted over 100 foreign exchange students at her own home.  She’s also traveled the world – visiting students she formerly hosted to experience their cultures, too. 

“It’s an amazing experience…I’m a single mom and I was hosting two at a time…I’ve traveled to many of their homes and stayed with them,” says Toledo, who cites Spain and Brazil as recent places she has visited. “They treat you so well when you come, because they are so thankful that you treated their kids so well and they had an amazing year.”

Founded in 1982, ISE, which started in California, has placed over 3,000 students a year.  But currently there is a shortage of homes locally.  The ISE places 2,800 students a year nationwide, but only 100 a year in California.

ISE works with 25 different countries around the world to place exchange students from 15 to 18 years old. Students stay 5 to 10 months with a local host family while attending  high school.

Host families provide room and board, however the students have $300 a month to pay their own way for extra-curricular projects such as sports, music or field trips.

“We find out what the families like and what their kids enjoy,” says Toledo, who helps match up families’ interests with students.  You can choose the part of the world, or make other requests, such as a teen who loves to play soccer or speaks a specific language. Each family will be shown information on several students from which to choose. 

ISE will also donate $50 for each local student placed, if you mention East County Magazine when you call Karen Toledo at (619)844-723-7403.  Learn more at

The ISE is also offering a commission-based area representative job – but if you place seven kids, you receive a trip overseas. This year, successful reps will travel to Dublin, Ireland.

If your teen is interested in becoming an exchange student overseas, hosting a student first is a great idea, says Toledo.  You can learn about the culture and often, your teen can later stay with the family of the student you hosted here.

Parents who have hosted exchange students offer positive testimonials:

I have hosted 7 now going on 8 next year. All amazing and wonderful experiences. I have learned as much or more than the students and have added 7 new children to my family. My granddaughter loves all her new aunts and uncles from around the world. Highly recommend the experience. - Ann

I cannot begin to put into words just what the exchange experience is like as a host family. Our precious first exchange "daughter" came to us from Germany arriving this past August. She has brought so much joy to our family and we've made memories together that will bridge the physical distance when she returns to her home country. We look forward to hosting our 2nd exchange "daughter" who will come to us from Thailand in August 2015. - Katrina

We have had an amazing experience with the young lady that we are hosting from Germany this year! If I can host anyone can! I am a single mom of a 13 year old son, I work full time and I go to college full time! This is the second year that we have hosted a student. Open your home and your heart to these amazing kids and you will be the one who is receiving the blessing! – Jennifer

ISE students here also participate in community service projects through Project HELP. Started by ISE in 2006, Project Help has provided an estimated 25,000 community service hours for projects that include community cleanup, food banks, clothing drives, and even help in the Colorado floods.  ISE partners with Red Cross and Ronald McDonald House Charities to give foreign exchange students the chance to work in their community and nationally. Each student complete at least five hours, though most surpass that minimum requirement. 

“Project HELP seems to be getting bigger every year,” says Gary Lubrat, Project Hel Co-Chair.  “Last year, we completed 20,000 community service projects. This year, we jumped to 25,000.”

Hosting an exchange student can result in life-long bonds. ECM co-founder Leon Thompson says he still corresponded with a Scandinavian exchange student he met in high school—a friend who is traveling all the way from overseas to attend an upcoming 50th high school reunion. 

For more information about becoming a host family or exchange student, or an area representative, contact Karen Toledo at (619)844-723-7403.Please visit the ISE website to learn more about hosting an exchange student

 Remember to say that you heard about ISE through East County Magazine, and ISE will make a $50 contribution to East County Magazine for each student placed.

The best reward, though, is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a positive difference in the life of a child – or several children, as a host family.




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