Exchange program looking for host family in Hudson

HUDSON – At 80 years young, grandmother Ginger Smith enjoys substitute teaching at Alvirne High School and has hosted some 20 exchange students in her home over the years.

Now she’s scouting the area, looking for a Hudson family who might be interested in hosting a high school exchange student for the 2021- 2022 school year.

“Alvirne High School is willing to do this exchange program,” Smith said. “A lot of schools couldn’t do it because they’re not open and other schools just didn’t want to do it.”

Thus far, Smith has found host homes for five students from around the world. She’s hoping that she’ll be able to place the last international high schooler by the end of the month.

“The students don’t come over here unless there is a place for them to stay,” she said. “There are students available. Some of them are grant students or scholarship students from third world countries who were chosen because of their leadership ability, their academics and their social maturity. They’re very special students who appreciate the opportunity to come and stay here. They’re very smart kids.”

The stay begins on August 23, 2021 and lasts until June 18, 2022. Smith became involved through the non-profit Greenheart Exchange. They have helped place students from 60 countries, including places like Ethiopia, Sudan, Jerusalem and Africa.

Five students are on their way. Smith didn’t want to take on too much as she substitute teaches already and she also has two au pairs that she’s placed with families that she regularly checks in with.

“It’s hard to do too many students with everything that’s going on still,” she said. “So few schools are open this coming fall. And a lot of people are still hesitant, even though the students are fully vaccinated. It’s a challenge.”

Smith became involved when her sons were in boy scouts. They needed to get an exchange student for their “Citizens Around the World” to talk about their country.

“It was a requirement for their badge,” she explained. “My husband was the troop leader at the time when our boys were in boy scouts. We looked around for an exchange student and there was an exchange student from Germany who was happy to come out and talk.”

From there, the Smiths were asked about hosting students. At the time, Ginger said they couldn’t do it. But a couple of years later, she was at a business fair and was approached by a woman who was from Face the World and she was persuaded to find host families for foreign exchange students.

“She was very convincing,” Smith said. “Since that time, we’ve had about 20 in our home over about 15 years. And I had four teenagers so that made five. We had to entertain them and take care of them. Now we don’t have the space, as I’m retired.”

Smith and her husband live with her daughter and son-in-law and their seven kids.

“It’s a happy, noisy house,” she said.

Smith said she enjoys young people and at 80, still skis with the kids, goes on hikes, goes tubing and will take on a corn maze at Halloween.

“We have cultural dinners or big dinner parties,” she said. “We’ll go to see where maple syrup is made and then have a big pancake breakfast. They don’t have maple trees in their countries.”

Smith said the student that she is attempting to find a school-year home for may be chosen by the host family.

“There are students left on the website,” she said. “Placing that last student is important. I need to get one more placed. There is a little challenge; if I get one more from this agency, I get a $750 travel voucher and then I can go out west to see my other grandchildren. That makes it very nice.”

The Greenheart Exchange Student program is nonprofit and offering a $200.00 Visa card as a thank you to anyone offering to be a host family in Hudson.

If you’re interested in being a Hudson host family, please contact Ginger Smith at 603.397.2494 or contact her at grandmaginger15@gmail.com.