Continued from the cover page
50 Years of Hosting Students
Led by Guidance Director Mr. Lynn Sackenheim, numerous foreign exchange students were hosted between the 1970's and the opening of the Meade Street campus. Students from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and Latin America would spend a semester or two experiencing a taste of American life and the opportunity to learn of their Savior.
Mr. Tom Welch, who succeeded Sackenheim as Guidance Director, remembers enjoying his first taste of assisting with foreign exchange students. "Students traveled here with visas that only allowed them to spend one school year here . . . but they were having such positive experiences that we were always getting asked about ways for them to keep attending and graduate from FVL."
Welch and the school administration worked hard to develop a program to make that possible. Working with the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) would enable internationals to receive F-1 visas. After site visits, curriculum reviews, and red tape, the green light to host I-20 students was given in 2003. Participation grew quickly. Word was shared by exchange agencies FVL had worked with in the past, and a strong connection was made with Korean contacts. Welch remembers Patrizia Nagel from Germany as FVL's first-ever I-20 student. Many followed. Within a few years, FVL was hosting over 50 international students annually. Mrs. Laura Gucinski, now FVL's Freshman Guidance Counselor, was hired to coordinate the growing aspects of the program. She worked extensively with registering and assisting students and finding host families. Both Welch and Gucinski emphasized the vital role host families play. Welch noted, "The response of families willing to host these students and share their home and faith has been amazing—we could not do it without them!"
Mary Rolloff (Class of 1974) hosted the first Chinese student to be baptized and confirmed while at FVL, and found it a life-changing experience. She still stays in close contact with Michelle, the girl she hosted. Many families have shared similar stories of how "hosting" changed their lives. Find more of these stories at fvlhs.org/blog and our July Legacy magazine.
The annual Culture and Cuisine event allows international students and host families to sample favorite flavors from around the world. Many of our international friends also do a presentation, sharing information about their home countries and cultures.
From its very beginning, the goal of FVL's international program was to share Jesus. Host families played a huge role, as did our teachers. Rev. Leon Ehlert took a special interest. He helped develop a special course to introduce the Christian faith. He remembers a survey response one student shared: "I am not a Christian, but now I know how beautiful Christianity is." The seed was planted in this student's life. The Holy Spirit has blessed us to see numerous international students baptized and confess their new-found Savior—Jesus. As FVL President Jeff Loberger echoes: