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March 20, 2014

Rotary looking for exchange alumni

The Cooperstown Rotary club is working to find veterans of its Rotary International Youth Exchange Program, which has been sending students abroad for nearly 50 years.

“There's over 200 kids that have either gone (from) or been here,” said Doug Geertgens, who heads the youth exchange program at the Cooperstown Rotary Club. “We're trying to track down as many of those as we can.”

Rotary Club District 7170, which Cooperstown is a part of, is celebrating 50 years of having a youth exchange. The program gives students the opportunity to spend nearly a year going to school and living in another country. Cooperstown started its youth exchange program in 1965, one year after the program started in the district.

“I think there's an appreciation for travel, there's an appreciation for broadening one's horizons,” said Geertgens.

Geertgens said the program begins in September with applications and interviews. The applicants who make it through the local interview are then interviewed at the district level in November. Students accepted into the program are notified in December. Orientation workshops take place in the spring. 

In July or August students leave for their host countries, and spend 10 to 11 months living with host families, going to school and being immersed in the culture of the country they are visiting. Students from other countries also stay in Cooperstown on their youth exchange as well. Geertgens said that the costs that program participants must cover are their plane fares, a health insurance policy and incidental expenses, such as clothing and eating out.

“It's a great program. If you're interested in it, by all means apply,” said Geertgens.

Geertgens said that about 130 students have gone on exchange from Cooperstown, while 82 international students have stayed in Cooperstown.

Geertgens said that Rotary District 7170's district governor this year, Tim Overbaugh, has been very involved in the youth exchange program. He said that this motivated Overbaugh to organize a celebration of the 50th anniversary as part of this year's district conference. The conference will take place at Greek Peak from June 13 to 15.

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