by Sarah Kennedy
Twenty-four visiting students were welcomed into homes in Damariscotta, Sheepscot, Pemaquid and Waldoboro over the recent week-long school vacation. The hosting families volunteered as part of the school’s new Vacation Homestay Program, providing residential students unable to travel home during school breaks a place to stay here in the community. Students from California, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Spain, South Korea, Uzbekistan and Vietnam all took advantage of the new program. The homestays gave students a chance to experience day-to-day family life here in Maine and the local families got an opportunity to learn about the students’ home culture as well.
“We really enjoyed being a part of this,” said Tammy Leemen of Sheepscot. Tammy and her husband David Leeman decided to become host parents after discussing the program with their daughter Jenna, who is a freshman at Lincoln Academy. The Leemen family hosted Katherine Han, a sophomore from China who just started at Lincoln Academy in January. “We all enjoyed talking to Katherine and learning about where she is from in China. I think the best thing for us was watching the friendship happen between Jenna and Katherine. They come from completely different backgrounds, but were like any normal girls having a great time, giggling and talking.”
The families reported enjoying cooking with their students and trying some new foods. The students had fun going sledding, playing games and watching movies during the cold and snowy days. Some families took excursions to The Pitch’s indoor soccer field, The Maine State Museum, The Portland Science Center, Get Air Trampoline Park, The Farnsworth Art Museum and the Owlshead Transportation Museum.
“I hope more families will want to get involved,” said Tammy. “Hosting an international student seemed scary at first, but I was worried about things that never happened. I worried that Katherine was going to be homesick and want to go home and that we would have trouble communicating. A client encouraged me to try it, reminding me that I was the mother of a teenage girl and I could handle it. She was right and we had a really great experience.”
Katherine Han said that she was a little nervous at first too, but quickly got to know her host family. “The best part was getting to know Jenna, her family and their friends,” said Katherine. “We hung out and played together. I really liked their pet animals too.”
More families are needed to host students over spring vacation April 16-24. Families are provided with a stipend to help offset expenses associated with hosting students and Lincoln Academy staff provide orientation meetings for both the students and families. For more information, please contact Ken Stevenson firstname.lastname@example.org (207) 563-3596 extension 222.
Sarah Kennedy is a staff member with the Lincoln Academy Residential Life Program. She graduated from LA in 2000.