Homestays are key to increasing the number of overseas kids
Wanted: People to welcome international students into their homes.
Whistler Secondary is hoping to host more students from overseas next year. But it will only happen if locals come forward and open their homes to the kids.
"The one major drawback for the program has been consistent homestays in Whistler," said Whistler Secondary principal Ken Davies.
The school has several reasons for wanting to increase the number of foreign kids not least of which are the large fees they pay to attend school in B.C.
Each student must pay about $12,000 for the year. The school they attend gets $5,000; some is used by the local school board to cover salaries and costs associated with the program, and the rest is shared between all the schools in the district.
There are dozens of students who would like to study in Whistler but with accommodation at a premium here there are few places for them to stay.
The school board pays $800 a month to each household that welcomes an international student.
The student needs his or her own room. But more than that said district principal Mike Weeks, the students need support and help as they try and settle into a foreign culture and new surroundings.
"The intent should be to provide a warm, caring home," said Weeks.
"They need to look after the student as if he or she were their own child."
That means taking the student on weekend outings, or trips, welcoming them on family dinners out or when enjoying entertainment like movies or theatre productions.
Of course helping them enjoy all the recreational opportunities in the area is part of it too, although students have to pay their own expenses when it comes to passes up the mountains, equipment, and evenings out.
Margaret Pattison has hosted several international students in her Squamish home. She also helps run the Howe Sound School Boards recruitment program.
"It brings a wonderful experience to the home because you learn about another culture," she said.
"I have three children so the children see a broader world.
"But it is work because you have another teenager in your house."
That means ferrying them back and forth to their activities, along with the other kids.
One thing Pattison realized quickly though was, "kids all around the world are very much alike.
"Most of the ones we have had have integrated with the family really well. They participate in whatever we do.