Rotary Youth Exchange Program
By Joyce Corey (Prior Lake Neighbors)
"The opportunity to connect through the Youth Exchange program does not last only for the short time a student is in your home but is a connection for a lifetime!"—Paul Perez, 2019-2020 District Governor 5960 Rotary Club of Prior Lake
We all know that Prior Lake Rotary makes a positive difference in the local community and internationally, but did you know that Rotary connects the world?
Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program is one of the group’s most loved and well-known programs. After a hiatus for two years to accommodate the safety protocols of the pandemic, this program is back and ready to connect host families with students.
Bill Schult, Youth Exchange Officer for the Prior Lake club, and his wife, Roberta, have been a host family to three students over the years. “Generally, the program runs from August until June; it follows the academic year and is dependent on each country’s school calendar,” Bill said. “We try to have three families per student, with the student staying approximately three or four months in each home.”
“The goal of this program is to exchange cultures,” he adds. “It’s a way to share our everyday lives and our cultural perspectives.”
Paul and Jill Hofslien hosted three foreign exchange students over the years and had very positive experiences. 
“Mariana was from Brazil, and she stayed with us from December 2005 to July 2006,” Paul said. “She became a big sister to our three children who were 10, 8, and 5. Everyone loved having Marianna with us and Marianna loved living with us.  So much in fact that putting her on the plane to go back to Brazil was a very difficult day for all of us. To this day she is considered our daughter and a sister to my kids.  We traveled to Brazil in 2013 to visit her and she has been back to our house several times over the years.” 
“This was our first experience hosting an exchange student and it made a lasting impression on our family,” Jill adds. “Marianna’s stay taught us about raising a teenager, gave us exposure to a different culture, and showed us there is always more room in our hearts for others.”
Students who take part in this program receive many benefits like developing lifelong leadership skills, learning a new language and culture, building lasting friendships, and becoming a global citizen.
Rotary Youth Exchange inspires young leaders to serve as catalysts for peace and social justice in their local communities and throughout the world, long after their exchanges end. This program is possible because of the dedication, leadership, and passion of the tens of thousands of volunteers — Rotary members and nonmembers alike — who make this unique program so successful.
If you are interested in being part of this globally focused program, your local Prior Lake Rotary Club is the place to start.
We were able to meet outbound students Lindsay Czarnecki and Mandi Becher. Lindsay is from Belle Plaine and will be heading to Brazil in August. Mandi is from Prior Lake but goes to school in New Prague. She will be heading to Italy in July. It was fun to hear from both of them and wish them a wonderful year abroad.
Our inbound Youth Exchange student is Elise Reedtz from Denmark. We look forward to meeting her and welcoming her into our Rotary family.