CLEVELAND — Students returning to the classroom has reopened doors for foreign exchange students to come and experience northeast Ohio, and coming to America has also presented unique opportunities that stretch beyond the classroom for some students.
In a crowd of people watching Lakewood high school's band practice Tuesday evening was a new classmate and friend, who heard the play for the first time.
“I’m from Egypt,” foreign exchange student Shahd Abouelmadd said.
Abouelmadd has been in Cleveland for one week, and is days away from starting tenth grade at Lakewood High School.
She is one of nine foreign exchange students in the greater Cleveland area hosted by the AFS Intercultural Program, and one of two students at Lakewood High School that are part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program (YES), that is funded by the U.S. Department of State.
The program was designed to deepen trust between the U.S. and people from countries of strategic importance.
“Each school individually has to accept a foreign exchange student,” Abouelmadd’s host mom, Jenni Barnett Rohrs, said.
The Rohr family, who is hosting Abouelmadd, said when she arrived, the first order of business was a COVID-19 vaccine.
“On day one, we picked her up from the airport, I think she took a power nap and then we were off to the local CVS to get her first of the two shots,” Abouelmadd’s host dad, Jeffery Rohrs, said.
Due to the pandemic, foreign exchange students haven't been allowed.
Abouelmadd told 3News she’d been waiting for the call she could come and learn in the U.S. for nearly a year.
“Because of the pandemic, we might travel, might not,” Abouelmadd said.
The Rohr family, who has hosted students since 2013 said they wrote a letter to Lakewood High School, asking for the school to reconsider allowing exchange students to come.
“My wife wrote this impassioned letter explaining that look if all the students are coming back then we'd love for you to reconsider,” Jeff said.
Abouelmadd picked her classes Tuesday and said she’d ready to take on a new year in Cleveland.
“Shahd is going to have an amazing experience at Lakewood high school this year," said Jenni.
Abouelmadd’s first day of school is Friday and told 3News to of the courses she's most excited to take are pop culture and cooking.
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