A Message from Tara Hofmann
Today as I write this, our work has taken on even greater urgency as we witness and carefully monitor the tragic invasion in Ukraine. It is at times like this that the clarity and importance of the AFS mission is on full display. While AFS-USA does not currently have participants in Ukraine or Russia, our global network of staff and volunteers, both in Europe and in the United States, continues to provide support to our students and families who may have questions or concerns. The safety and well-being of our participants, staff, and volunteers is always our top priority.
The AFS Network is dedicated to continuing the exchange of people and ideas whenever and wherever it is possible to do so. This was true, for example, during the Cold War, when AFS was one of the few organizations in the world still exchanging future leaders between the USA and the former USSR. And this commitment is still strong today.
I was speaking on the telephone recently with an AFS alum who went to Germany in 1961, subsequently became a Fulbright scholar, and was later appointed senior partner at a major international law firm. Jim was calling to tell me how much his AFS experience impacted his life and career, and to see how his skills in a volunteer capacity might help advance our work. Today, I received a note from Nancy who is currently volunteering to help settle Afghan refugees; she told us about how her AFS program abroad still informs her work every day.
Jim and Nancy are two of thousands of alumni who have been in touch with us recently, and many have chosen to offer to share their stories with us. Whether you’re an AFS-USA alum, parent, host family member, volunteer, educator, or are associated with AFS in some other way, you carry with you the mission of helping to create a more just and peaceful world.
And we need you, especially in times like these.
Walk Together, Talk Together.
Tara M. Hofmann
President and Chief Executive Officer
In Memoriam: Peter J. Westort
July 13, 1947 – December 31, 2021
The AFS-USA family lost a dear friend and advocate with the passing of Board Member and longtime volunteer Peter J. Westort this past December following a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
Throughout his extensive career as a professor of accounting and taxation, Peter especially savored his role as host father to many international students. He also served as a group leader for university-level study abroad programs in Peru, Germany, Netherlands, and Eastern Europe. Peter took particular pleasure in seeing some of the students he’d introduced to international travel on those trips go on to have careers that let them continue having their own global experiences.
Peter and his wife Mary Ann Offer became active with AFS-USA when their own children studied abroad in high school; Peter also served diligently as Treasurer for the AFS-USA Board of Directors from 2017 through 2021. He will be remembered as a loving husband, father, friend, community member, and volunteer leader, and for his easy, infectious laugh that filled a room.
Awards for Promoting Global Classrooms
As part of AFS-USA’s work to create and nurture truly global classrooms across the country, we are proud to announce that Mr. Joshua Amstutz, a math teacher and a facilitator of the Academy of Global Studies (AGS) at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, OH, has been named Global Educator of the Year.
The AFS Global Educator Award recognizes educators throughout the country who have demonstrated excellence integrating cultural diversity, global competence, and internationalized concepts into their instruction with the aim of cultivating global citizens. As this year’s recipient, Mr. Amstutz has been acknowledged for leading fellow staff members through a series of professional development and learning experiences to internationalize the curriculum, and for engaging students through guest speakers, domestic and international opportunities, and monthly outreach and service events.
In addition, Oconomowoc High School in Oconomowoc, WI will receive the 2022 AFS Global School Award. We are proud to recognize Oconomowoc as an impressive model for other schools as they show a deep-rooted commitment to intercultural and global awareness and competence as demonstrated by their courses, international programming, and school-wide activities.
Question Readers Needed for Academic Competitions
Since 2010, former 19-day Jeopardy! champion and AFS Returnee David Madden (Austria 1998-99) has combined his loves of quizzing and world travel as the founder and Executive Director of International Academic Competitions (IAC). IAC is active in over 50 countries, and for students in the USA, IAC organizes the National History Bee, National Science Bee, and International Geography Bee. Over 25,000 students are competing at 100 regional tournaments for these three events from March to May, and IAC is eager to find question readers for them. Tournaments take place nationwide, but staff are needed especially in the areas of Atlanta, DC, NYC, Chicago, Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The pay is up to $200 for a day of getting in touch with your inner Alex Trebek! For more details and to sign up go to www.iacompetitions.com/apply and select AFS USA on the drop-down menu.
Are you interested in contributing to AFS-USA at the national level? Does your professional experience include a national perspective on secondary education or expertise in organizational governance? If so, you might be a good fit for the AFS-USA Board of Directors.
AFS-USA Board members provide oversight, insight, and foresight with a focus on strategic issues as they relate to the environment in which we operate. Learn more about the Board’s needs and how to indicate your interest in being considered: myafsnews.afsusa.org/needs-afs-usa-board-of-directors.
27th Annual Youth Assembly in New York City
August 12 – 14, 2022
If you’re between the ages of 18-32, we are delighted to invite you to join us on August 12-14, 2022 in New York City for the 27th Annual Youth Assembly, a global gathering of young leaders, social entrepreneurs, activists, and champions of sustainable development, with a focus on young adults.
With a theme of “Dare to Reshape the World,” the Youth Assembly will provide a unique opportunity to connect with likeminded leaders from around the globe, hear from world-renowned speakers, participate in topic-specific workshops, and engage in lively discussions and sessions.
Since its launch in 2004, the Youth Assembly has provided a platform for meaningful dialogue and partnership between youth, civil society, the private sector, and the United Nations. During this three-day event, young leaders will be provided with access to tools, knowledge, and skills to create action-oriented solutions that help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Between 600 to 800 Youth Assembly delegates from 100 countries are expected this year.
The 27th Youth Assembly promises to be an inspirational and empowering event, and we welcome your active participation. For more information, please visit www.youthassembly.org. AFS alumni and volunteers will receive a 10% discount on their conference registration by using the promo code YA27AFS.
Become an AFS-USA Global Youth Ambassador!
Have you heard of the AFS-USA Youth Ambassador Sustainability Project?
Through an 8-week series of virtual leadership trainings, Project participants learn how to design, and then implement, a community project centered around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The first class of Ambassadors graduated in November 2021, and since then have been working to create their projects in their local schools and communities. As one participant stated, “It’s a big commitment, but it’s a great way you can help your community.”
Learn more about this project by emailing [email protected]!
The Bonds of Hosting
The Judy family in Pennsylvania first became involved with AFS when a close friend suggested they try hosting. Since then, the Judy’s have hosted five times with students hailing from Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and their current student, Mohannad from Jordan. Below are some excerpts from an interview first published in “Building Bridges,” the Western Pennsylvania Area Team’s volunteer-created newsletter.
Our AFS experience has truly enhanced our family; these kids have become like an additional brother or sister, grandchild, cousin, etc. And, we have a broader view of and respect for the people of the world as we’ve tried new foods and learned about new traditions. It’s also really enhanced our family time as we’ve introduced our own traditions to someone new, such as showing them Halloween’s haunted houses, carving pumpkins, and trick or treating; Christmas’s gingerbread houses and decorating the tree; as well as Steeler games, fast food restaurants, malls, and vacation trips.
We’ve hosted multiple times in part due to the enthusiasm of our oldest son. He was 10 years old the first time we hosted, and he’s encouraged us even after challenging years when we would have chosen to take a break. We’ve never regretted hosting any of our students. They aren’t perfect; we aren’t perfect. But we have learned to solve problems, and it’s been surprising to see bonds between some of us strengthen even after a student returns to their native country. And, it is most special when we’ve had the privilege to visit our students in their home countries and meet their natural families. Our children would not have passports and the experience of leaving the United States if they didn’t have their international siblings!
Are you thinking of opening your home and your heart to an AFS student? We are looking for host families all over the country but particularly in the Midwest (IA, IL, MN, and OH), Texas (Dallas and San Antonio) and Atlanta GA. Please reach out to us at [email protected] with any questions.
American Summer Exchange Offers Domestic Programs
American Summer Exchange is an exchange program for young Americans, providing an opportunity to work and travel in the U.S. this upcoming summer. We match participants with host employers around the country that are located in iconic vacation destinations (like Yellowstone, Acadia National Forest in Maine, the Santa Cruz, California boardwalk, and more). These are the same locations we also place international students in our Work & Travel USA program, so American participants will get to live and work for the summer side-by-side with students from around the world. If you are interested please go to interexchange.org to learn more and sign up!