AFS International/Intercultural Exchange Program has been a part of Homestead High School for over 58 years.
The exchange grew out of the American Field Service (AFS), which was founded during World Wars I & II by young Americans who volunteered as ambulance drivers. AFS volunteers picked up injured soldiers regardless of their allegiance. Due to their experiences on the battlefields, at the end of the Second World War volunteers decided to further world peace “one student at a time” and in 1947, the AFS International/Intercultural Exchange Program was founded. That first year saw exchanges of 52 young people from 11 countries formerly at war. The founding belief was that building a more just and peaceful world begins when people from different countries and cultures meet, learn together and better understand one another.
The history of AFS and of the AFS Variety show at Homestead is almost as old as Homestead. AFS began at Homestead in the fall of 1961, when Tor Marthin arrived from Sweden to be hosted by the Wicker Family. In 1962, the T-M AFS Chapter sent its first two American abroad students overseas; Ingrid Tjensvold to Germany and Claudia Egelhoff to Austria, each for a semester.
Since those early days of AFS at Homestead, the T-M AFS Chapter has hosted 181 students from 51 countries and has sent 246 students to 52 countries. It remains one of the most active AFS chapters in Wisconsin and the United States, with a long and productive collaboration between school and community. Early in 2015 Homestead received a “Top AFS School” award from AFS-USA, one of a select group of high schools to receive such an honor each year.
Visiting AFS students (and their host families) at Homestead this year are Katrina Adamovica from Latvia (Rappa family), Villads Beck from Denmark (Rowe family), Noe Clavier from France, (Klug family), Lena Konradi from Germany (Wilkerson family), and Giulia Vignoli from Italy (Nickerson family). Students at Homestead who have gone abroad on AFS include Sam Aiello (China), Olivia Salazar-Kaufmann (Japan), Lizzie Wilkerson (Italy), and Zack Zens (Italy).
March 1962 marked the very first AFS Variety Show. Until the James Barr Auditorium was built, shows were presented at Wilson and Range Line Schools. The AFS Variety Show continues today as an opportunity to introduce the AFS exchange students to the school district and for Homestead students to share their gifts and talents with the community.
AFS is widely recognized as an advocate for intercultural education and understanding. High school students can choose from a broad range of year, semester, and summer programs in over 45 countries. AFS programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to experience the world and change a student’s life as he/she becomes a member of a family in a different country, attends school, makes new friends, learns a foreign language, and becomes part of a new culture and community.
Scholarship funding is available for AFS Study Abroad programs. For students and parents who want to learn about opportunities to study abroad with AFS or host an AFS student, there is an information table in the lobby. For more information, log on to AFSUSA.ORG.