Are you fascinated by international cultures? As an AYA Local Coordinator, you can share America with the world by helping international exchange students come to the United States to live with American families and attend American high schools.
In our “Meet an AYA Local Coordinator” series, we look at the people behind the success of our AYA exchange students. Today we hear from AYA Local Coordinator Ryan, who runs a cluster in Ohio, about his experience working with exchange students and host families.
Meet Ryan Dunfee, AYA Local Coordinator for Ohio:
What’s the best part of being a Local Coordinator?
Ryan: I believe the best part about being an LC is the students and the sharing of the cultures and learning a lot about the students and them becoming your family some of them. Because I’ve hosted [them] we stay we stay in contact. I’ve got to visit a lot of students in their countries over the years and [they] come back to visit me and they’re host families […]. The other part is things like this National Meeting we get to meet a lot of like-minded people other coordinators and we all get together. It’s nice to share a lot with each other and get to know each other. It’s like a big family.
What sparked your interest in becoming a Local Coordinator?
Ryan: So what sparked my interest in [becoming a] LC was when I was in school, we had an exchange student and I got to know him and became friends with him. We stayed in touch for quite a while and yeah that’s really what I started it […]. And when I had the chance to be an LC I applied and yeah, I didn’t realize I’d be doing it this many years, but it’s just, uh yeah, it’s worked out really well!
How do your students get involved in the community?
Ryan: We have a lot of get-togethers. First, we have like a welcome party, and we have […] kind of a Halloween/fall celebration where they carved pumpkins and did some games and had a fire, a mini roast and they went in a haunted house […]We have a Christmas party, so everybody comes together for that. But, yeah, they also are playing football, they’re playing soccer, volunteering for things so, I mean, they’re totally involved in the community and get to know a lot of people that way.
What methods have you used to find new host families?
Ryan: Nowadays, […] with Facebook and Facebook groups you can put a lot out there to get people interested. You have got to follow up with anybody that shows interest. Yeah, that’s been one of the best ways for me nowadays, and word of mouth.
What makes a great Local Coordinator?
Ryan: I think it’s got to be somebody who loves what they’re doing. They gotta have a passion for it, they [have to] like kids and they like being involved in the community and they got to stay involved I mean they gotta you know like so we have parties we have different things and it seems to really a really good way to get to know the kids they know that you know when they get to see you that often and they get to know you you have that trust and I think it worked really well with working with the students
What’s the most rewarding part about being a Local Coordinator?
Ryan: Again, I’ve made a lot of great relationships over the years with students. We stay in touch I’m some of the kids from 20 two years ago, you know, we still stay in touch. So, when I go to Europe we all get together, […] not just with the students, but with the host families. You maintain relationships with a lot of the host families and […] with local coordinators.
Any tips for new Local Coordinators?
Ryan: I would say one of the things that really has worked well for me is trying to find the right matches making a good match goes a long way in and the success of the students stay here and that when the families experience so yeah really trying to make a good match between them.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
Interested in becoming an AYA Local Coordinator?
AYA is looking for passionate individuals like Ryan across the United States. Becoming a Local Coordinator is a rewarding opportunity to build your personal and professional network by providing support to international students, host families and your own community.