Program brings foreign students to U.S. schools

July 24, 2013 

Warner Robins resident Mary Morton describes hosting high school foreign students in her home as being all about relationships. “It has not only broadened the world for my family, but also has broadened my family, since I have sons and daughters all over the globe from Germany and Finland to Korea.”

Morton, her husband and four children have been hosting international students in their home for 12 years through a program called Ayusa (pronounced I-oo-sa with the accent on the “oo”) and have enjoyed every minute of it. “I believe the best way to foster cultural understanding is to host one of our students during the school year that they are here,” Morton said.

Ayusa stands for “Academic Year in the USA” and is now used as a proper word instead of an acronym. As an Ayusa host family, the goal is to offer a unique opportunity of seeing America to open-minded and hardworking high school students who want to attend an American high school for five to 10 months.

“The host families are asked only to treat their students as one of their own, providing food, a bed -- not necessarily in a private room -- and a loving family environment,” Morton said. She explains that the opportunity provides so many benefits including experiencing a new culture, establishing lifelong friendships, sharing the generosity and hospitality of your family and allowing students to develop language and leadership skills that they might not have experienced otherwise.

“The skills these students learn will serve them throughout their lives,” Morton said, “and creates a real connection from your home to a family in another country”.

The students range in age from 15-18 and come from more than 60 countries around the world. Students arrive equipped with medical insurance, spending money, a firm command of the English language and a strong commitment to becoming a member of a local community.

“When you have an exchange student, you have the opportunity to broaden the horizon of your family and the student, and really provide a unique contribution to our community,” Morton said. “This is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on global youth.”

A new addition to the program this year is to commit to hosting a student for six to eight weeks before being placed in your home for a full term. If you would like to learn more about this opportunity and the Ayusa exchange student program to “Share Your America!”, call Mary Morton at 478-320-2976 and visit

Mark your calendar now and save the date -- Aug. 5 -- to give blood during the third blood drive of the year at Christ United Methodist Church. The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for all blood types and platelets as almost 50,000 fewer donations were received in June this year than expected. This drive is even more critical as it is in support of Warner Robins resident and Christ United Methodist member George Ealer, who is in recovery from an aortic dissection in June. The blood drive is 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. that day at the church, which is located at 511 Russell Parkway, Warner Robins. Advance reservation is necessary and can be made by calling 922-0211. Also, child care will be provided for the whole drive as with all American Red Cross blood drives. If you have questions about medical eligibility, call the American Red Cross at 1-800 GIVE LIFE. For other questions concerning this particular blood drive, call Al Fatkin at 478-971-4013.

Marsha Priest Buzzell is executive director of the Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau and may be contacted at 478-922-5100 or

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