Rotary Youth Exchange

Posted By Brad Walker

Johnny Whitfield is a long-time supporter and officer of the District’s Youth Exchange Committee (YEX).  This dynamic international Rotary program works with ESSEX (Eastern States Student Exchange) to give students aged 15-18 the opportunity to live abroad and learn about other cultures.  While COVID has suspended all exchanges for the 2020-2021 academic year, YEX has used the time to look closely at the program and make some changes, Whitfield told members

First, a district our size can and should accommodate 10 Long Term exchanges annually, double its current average. This would mean sponsoring10 D7710 students abroad and hosting 10 international students within D7710.  Long term exchanges span the course of an academic year, generally mid-August through mid-May.  Short Term exchanges are reciprocal and generally take place during the summer. 

With participation from 20 percent of our clubs, we could reach this goal, Whitfield said.  Through the social networks of club members, such as neighborhoods and churches, eligible students could be identified, recruited, and led through the application process. To accomplish this goal, the YEX  wants to double its size, from four to eight members.  So, along with the current positions of committee chair, Inbound coordinator, outbound coordinator, and short term coordinator, the YEX Committee would like to add four more positions:  district trainer, activities coordinator, plus assistant Inbound and outbound coordinators.  The trainer meets with students and host parents; the activities director works with various clubs to sponsor a youth exchange event or outing where club members can meet the international students as well as members from other clubs. 

Whitfield cited other  indirect benefits made possible by the suspension of YEX’s typically busy year, such as the following:

  • More training provided by ESSEX via Zoom for parents, volunteers, and committee members.  Monthly Zoom meetings have provided opportunities to meet with other district representatives and “steal” good ideas, Whitfield said..
  • Additional training for Youth Protection Services volunteers.  An easier platform for “spreading the gospel of Rotary” to more clubs again via Zoom, replacing long drives to club meetings throughout a large geographical district. 
  • A simplified, paperless application process for potential exchange students. 

Whitfield commended our club for our past and current involvement in YEX and thanked member Dee Skinner for stepping up to serve as District YEX Short Term Coordinator and Jackie Barnes, who serves as District Youth Protection Services officer.  For more information about YEX, contact Whitfield at

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