Bradenton destination for 50 foreign exchange students in July

vmannix@bradenton.comMay 31, 2013 

MANATEE -- Wanted: 15 more host families for French and Spanish teenagers.

Interested? Sherree Bowman hopes so.

Deadline is Saturday.

The local program leader for Education First's Homestay Programs, an exchange student nonprofit, is bringing in 50 youths, ages 13-19, from France and Spain to the Bradenton/Sarasota area between July 6-31.

But she's only got 35 host families lined up to date.

"I'm stressing out trying to find more," Bowman said, half-kiddingly. "We especially need families who can host boys. We

also have two adult chaperones who travel with the students. So maybe there are families who would enjoy hosting an adult. Everyone is welcome to apply -- families, single parents, retirees."

Education First is bringing 1,600 teens to Florida this summer. They've been studying English at their schools and are coming to America to live for a few weeks with English-speaking families to improve their skills.

EF exchange students are fully insured and bring their own spending money. Host families have 24/7 support from EF staff.

Host families are not paid, but if they have a high school teenager, they will earn 60 community service hours.

"It's an amazing program," said Bowman, who's been in it for seven years. "Families do not have to feel obligated to spend a lot of money on them. It is not a huge expense -- just a bed, three meals daily and transportation to a rendezvous point from where we take the kids on field trips twice a week."

Those destinations are anywhere from the Anna Maria Island beaches to the South Florida Museum, the International Mall in Tampa and, of course, Disney World and Universal Studios.

"Families also do stuff with the kids on their own, like Rays game and Marauders games," Bowman said. "I've had families take their students all over the country with them."

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