BLACKFOOT – The search for host families for foreign exchange students continues as the start of the school year approaches quickly.

For the past few months, Merilee Leslie, a local activist for student exchange, has taken to Life in Blackfoot on Facebook as a way to reach as many people in the community as possible in sharing the much-needed help in finding the correct families to add these students.

Leslie has continued to post, explaining the wonder it is to experience such an interesting process and the connections made to those that become part of your family. That statement remains the hot button item in the discussion as former hosts comment and provide testimony about their experiences.

Others have expressed how they become part of the family and have kept in touch such as Jeff and Pat Deru. When they were hosting exchange students, it was quite common to hear Jeff refer to them as his own children. Others who have hosted explained that it is an experience they continue to cherish many years later.

This year is unique in the sense that the economic situation is vastly different than pre-pandemic and people are concerned about the ability to comfortably host the students. Although this is a serious concern, it should be noted that the students do not come empty-handed — they travel with the money needed to participate in any activities that they want to be involved with. Each of the potential exchange students create a profile to explain their history and what they enjoy in efforts to be involved in a family that will enjoy similar activities.

The addition to the home not only benefits the exchange student; families will learn about a different culture through the eyes of someone who lives there, and it provides the opportunity to create life-long connections.