Grundy Center Community Schools

Host Families the Heart of German Exchange Program

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By Brianna Brown
Grundy Center High School Senior
Home is where the heart is, and for more than seven years Grundy Center families have opened their homes and hearts as a part of the school and community’s German Exchange program. From Sept. 21-28, 18 German students and two teachers were welcomed in Grundy Center to experience the school and community with 12 local host families.
The German Exchange program, in its seventh year, maintains the Sister City connection between Grundy County and Krummhörn, Germany through the annual school exchange. While in Iowa, the group took part in several field trips including a Grundy Center tour, including the Herbert Quick Schoolhouse, a peak at the State Capitol building, Hawkeye Community College, and John Deere TractorWorks, as well as taking part in the regular school day.
Host families are the heart of the program, and several Grundy Center families have hosted more than once. Veteran hosts including Ron and Tiffanie Saak, Karrie and Jeff Hawk, Gary and Stacy Kelley, Mark and Brenda Brown, Ole and Kristin Cleveland, and Shane and Myra Waltersdorf.
Hunter Hawk, a junior who has both hosted six students and traveled to Germany, said he loves learning from the people he meets. “I like to [host] because I can meet new people from across the world and get to learn a new culture. The students get to experience a very inexpensive trip across the ocean and you can all experience learning a new language and get to present in front of people about how you live.”
Betsy Kuecker, high school English teacher who has led program for five years, said that the best part [of the exchange] is the relationships formed. “In small ways, because this program hinges on relationships and friendship, it helps build peace as my students are able to love a land and a people that are not their own.”
Beyond relationships, the program allows the German students to bring alive their seven years of English study, while the Grundy Center students gain from cultural exchange and the global experience. “The German students get some real life English practice, which makes their studies come alive for them,” says Kuecker. “I know their teachers have told me that many are more enthusiastic in studying English when they return.”
From March 11-22, nine Grundy Center High School students will travel to Germany to complete the exchange. John and Joan Schuller, along with Steve and Barb VanderPol, will chaperone the trip, which concludes with a two-day experience in Berlin.

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Host Families the Heart of German Exchange Program