Foreign Exchange Students to Dance, Sing During First Friday Art Walk

World Link foreign exchange students with their local coordinator Crissy Libby, third from right.

Foreign exchange students from former USSR countries will dance and sing in their cultural costumes and present storyboards about their countries during Downtown Visalia’s First Friday art walk from 5-8pm on April 1. They will perform at the Center for Spiritual Awareness, 117 S. Locust (one block south of Main).

The Center will also feature art and photographs by Richard Garoogian.

The students are part of World Link, a private non-profit foreign exchange student program. Local coordinator Crissy Libby explained that the students are from two programs funded by the US Department of State: FLEX (Future Leader’s Exchange) and YES (Youth Exchange and Study). FLEX began after the break-up of the former USSR, and includes students from such countries as the Ukraine, Republic of Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazahkstan. YES began as a result of 9/11, with students primarily from Muslim countries.

The programs seek to improve the understanding and cooperation among peoples and cultures of the world.

“We are empowering the students to take the skills, ideas and positives they learn during their exchange year and use these things in alumni activities back in their home countries, in hopes they will make a positive impact for the benefit of future generations,” said Libby.

The students speak beautiful English, live with host families and attend high school in the Central Valley. They are required to make presentations and do volunteer work.

“When I first began coordinating the program in 2010, the word ‘volunteer’ didn’t exist in several of these countries’ vocabularies,” said Libby. “One student from Azerbaijan told me that people did not do things for other people without some sort of monetary compensation unless they were a slave.

“I have noticed over the past few years, more and more students are writing in their applications about volunteering in the home communities. So in just a few short years, the alumni of FLEX and YES programs have made a difference in their home communities, and the idea of helping one another because it feels right is catching on.”

American students can also apply to be foreign exchange students through the program.

World Link is currently seeking host families in Central Valley cities and towns for the 2016-17 school year. Students arrive in August, but many schools have placement deadlines so families are needed now. Please call Crissy Libby at 559 901-0275 for information.

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