Steve LaBarge was recently interviewed about Rotary Youth Exchange by District 6060 Governor Eric Park.
Interview with Stephen F. LaBarge, CPA, consultant with Huber, Ring, Helm & Co., P.C.s a full-service public accounting firm headquartered in the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area, and District Chairman of Rotary Youth Exchange Program
As the current Chairman, Steve LaBarge (Webster Groves) works with two coordinators:
·Greg Luzecky (Crestwood Sunset Hills), Inbound Coordinator
·Paul Lambi (Wentzville), Outbound Coordinator
How did you first become interested in this project?
My participation began in 1985-86 when a PDG, Alan Hoener, formed the first committee in the district to implement a youth exchange program. At that time, our state was divided into four quadrants and establishing the committee was our Club’s response on behalf of our N/E district, then District 6050.
How does our Rotary Youth Exchange work?
The idea originally grew from one of Rotary’s 4 Avenues of Service: International. In the 1930’s, Rotary International’s goal was to bring together like-minded, world members who would care enough to discover the commonality among all nations by using the existing network of clubs from around the globe to spread goodwill and understanding. Today, the Youth Exchange Program is a successful, reciprocal exchange program with an annual participation of 8-10,000 students worldwide. It joins Interact, RYLA, and Rotaract as part of New Generations, our 5th and newest Avenue of Service.
What opportunities exist for new and older member Rotarians who wish to participate in RYE?
Opportunities are year-round to support this successful exchange program! The interview process begins in the fall and by November or December, the year’s exchange students have been identified. Success definitely depends on support from the local school community! Five of the fifteen students for the 2012-2013 academic year will be from our Webster Groves Club, in large part because of the continual support from its high school.
What challenges do you foresee in the next few years?
The same challenges have always existed:
·Communicating the opportunities to our American high school students depends heavily on the support of school counselors and language arts teachers working with the local club to both identify and present the opportunity to students and their parents.
·Understanding the nature of the reciprocal exchange portion of this program; again, communication and stories from past exchange students can both support and feed a future roster of participants.
·Engaging parental support and homes for long-term (school year) participants can be challenging, but it is more cost effective than arranging a short-term (4-6 week) exchange. However, if the applicant can only commit to the latter, we will accommodate that request.