Domestic exchange program seeking SW La. students

Marlisa Harding

The American Exchange Project, a domestic foreign exchange program for high school students, is seeking Southwest Louisiana students to join their ranks. Students meet virtually with students across the country to forge new friendships, learn about other regional cultures and expand their worldview, Aliana Potter, American Exchange Project director of social media and marketing, said.

At the conclusion of the year, students have the opportunity to participate in a two-week exchange with another student from different part of the country.

“It allows kids to replicate the experience they’d be able to have it they grew up in a community that wasn’t such a bubble,” she said. “It’s a chance to virtually burst the bubble across physical, religious and political divides.”

Students participate in several Zoom hangouts a week where they view documentaries, discuss sports and share bits of good news from their own communities.  

“We’re more united than we are divided. It’s really just these small conversations and getting to know people who are different than you that helps you realize it.”

Several students from the region participated last year but Hurricanes Laura and Delta have lowered enrollment for Louisiana students due to relocation or lack of internet access.

“They literally fell off the grid when they lost their access to internet so we’re looking to rebuild those connections in the area,” Potter said. 

For one Louisiana student who was able to continue in the program, Potter said the program has been a “constant.”

“She definitely has really taken advantage of the opportunity to escape into the Zooms and the hangouts from all over the country. Now that she’s in Texas, it’s provided her with something that remains the same even after moving.”

In its second year of operation, this year’s enrollment includes students from Massachusetts, Texas, California, Louisiana, Idaho, Michigan, Indiana and New York. Potter said 93 percent of students professed to have made close friends, 93 percent said they were more empathetic to different ways of life and 97 percent said every high schooler in America should take part in American Exchange Project.

For more information or to sign up, visit americanexchangeproject.org or email aliana@americanexchangeproject.org.Classroom desk

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