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AUSTIN EDITION - Prospective exchange students need host families in this area

By Jim Troyer

For the Post-Bulletin

They have won the chance of a lifetime, a year's study in an American high school, but for Mariya, Taras, Natalya and Sofiya it's still just a dream.

The four teenagers, all 16, from Russia and Ukraine, need host families for the next school year to make the dream come true. Hosts provide all the support to exchange students that the families would give to their own sons or daughters.

Those who have been through the experience say they get more than they give. Biographies required by the U. S. Department of State under the Freedom Support Act require the students to provide detailed information about their achievements, family life, friendships, even their tolerance of pets.

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The pictures that emerge illustrate the depth of the selection process.

Mariya Nikolayevna Sushkova, for example, has been studying English since she was 5. She is from Voronezsh, Russia, a big city about which she sings praises in her "Host Family Letter." The introduction tells a prospective host family about the student's interests, friends and home. It must describe a typical day in her life, and it must be written in English.

Mariya talks about school and friends, and concludes: "I think that I'm a happy person. I love my family, my friends, my school, my hometown and my style of life. But I'd love to change my life for one year. I'd love to meet my new family and my new friends."

Taras Andriyovych Osadchiy, is from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. He is a winner of the Regional Olympiad in French and the diploma of finalist of the All-Ukrainian Olympiad in English. He's an avid handball player and works part-time for the Diva Model Agency.

Natalya Andriyivna Kudryavtseva is from Sevastapol, where she likes to swim and play volleyball. Among her interests, she lists acting, chess, movies, reading, theater, travel and writing letters. Natalya plans out each day but likes changes. "Frankly speaking, I …; like to change things in order not to get bored of it."

Sofiya Olehivna Kochevykh is from Antratsit, a town on the far eastern edge of Ukraine named for the anthracite coal that lies beneath it. It's a small town but Sofiya clearly is proud of it. "The shining mineral influenced the nature of people living here: They are strong, reliable and giving warmth." For the past eight years, she has been a student of classical, studio ballroom dancing. In addition to dance contests, she participates in concerts for children and seniors.

Harry Stevens, director of the Future Leaders Exchange, is confident people will respond to the need for host families but points out that the stakes are high.

"We won't get them unless we get at least three new hosts," he said.

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This year's "cluster coordinator" for the program is Tami Fett of rural Lyle. She and her husband, Randy, are hosts for Alex Rossiiskii, Ukraine, who attended Lyle High School this year.

The Fetts can be reached at 325-2245 and Tami also can be reached on her cell phone at 438-4243.

Other host families who can answer questions are Bryan and Lorna Harber, who hosted Kristine Forgard of Norway, 433-5952; Peter and Amy Wangen, who hosted Lena Kolesynk, 433-6899; Joel and Beth Johnson, who hosted Rotary exchange student Nina Skyum of Denmark, 433-4890; Lance and Snow Pogones, who hosted Oksana Hereasymchuk of Ukraine, 437-3983; and Dennis and Vicki Schminke, who hosted Vika Akhmetgaliyeva of Russia, 437-7019.

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