A few Rotary members have been asking about the Rotary Youth Exchange program, no doubt prompted by the excellent article about our current inbound and outbound students in the Daily Record last week.

The Rotary Club of Denmark initiated the first Rotary youth exchange in 1927 with the Rotary Club of Nice, France following in 1929. The exchanges then usually took place during summer or school vacations and only lasted for a few weeks. Exchanges were abandoned in the mid-1930’s because of economic conditions and the impending unrest which ultimately led to World War II.
The current framework which we follow now was created at an International Rotary Governors meeting at Lake Placid in 1958. Rules and procedures were developed which are still followed today. Exchanges were expanded to between 10 and 12 months. The first exchange under the new rules was made in 1959 between Mrytleford, Australia and Grand Lake, Colorado. Exchanges increased rapidly after 1959. In 1962 exchanges with Japan and Germany were permitted after long negotiations. Last year and estimated 9,000 students were exchanged between 80 countries.

The Wooster Rotary Club accepted our first inbound exchange student, Rosa Sanchez from Argentina, in 1966. Since then up to 2020 we have welcomed 116 students from 32 different countries to Wooster Rotary.

The first outbound students from Wooster Rotary were Linda Chapman, Paula Gathright and Carol Nuenswander in 1966. All three went to Sweden. In 1967 the second Wooster exchange involved sending Ray Leisy to Rugby, England. Since 1966 until 2020 the Wooster Rotary Club has sponsored 128 students outbound to 29 different countries.

Rotary International also sponsors a shorter program as STEP, Short Term Exchange Program. This program involves a stay of only one month in the summer and is a direct exchange between a Wooster family and another student and their family. We have had two students participate in that program so far in 2017 and 2018.

The information compiled for this article was researched and compiled by Jan Hamill, Ray Leisy and Cathy McConnell.