About a dozen exchange students in high school are still looking for a host family right here in Northeast Ohio. A local family, who has hosted four international students, is now encouraging others to open their homes and hearts.
"Through this, I have four or five sisters all across the world," Samantha Gifford, 18.
The Gifford family of Cuyahoga Falls has hosted four high school students from Switzerland, Thailand, Germany and Austria. It was something Pam Gifford and her daughter Samantha welcomed, but father Don was reluctant at first.
“I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s child and the financial burden,” said Don.
But that feeling soon changed.
“There wasn’t a financial burden and the love you get is indescribable.”
The Gifford family looked into what it takes to become a volunteer host through International Student Exchange to learn more about their responsibilities as host parents.
“We ask them to supply them a bed, a place at the table, make sure they get to school and enjoy the experiences of another culture,” said Michelle Grimes, Ohio region area representative for ISE.
The cultural experience was enough to persuade the family to get involved and encourage others to become host families.
"It is a little bit scary to think, because everyone is very busy, that’s the way the world is, but it ended up being not as hard as everyone thinks it is.
The family said today’s political climate didn’t cross their minds when making the decision to host. The decision was based on an open mind and open heart.
"Once [the students] got here and you get to know them, there’s no questions that it’s just another kid that you fall in love with."
The number of international students accepted by high schools varies by district. Cuyahoga Falls High School has the ability to host nine exchange students, but that’s if they're able to find host families in the district.