The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program is a U.S. government-sponsored program for secondary school students from Europe and Eurasia. The program provides scholarship funding for students to travel to the United States, attend a US high school for a full academic year, and live with a US host family.
History of the program
FLEX was established in 1992 as the centerpiece of the Eurasian Secondary School Initiative under the FREEDOM Support Act. Funding is provided by the US Department of State. The program was created out of the conviction of former Senator Bill Bradley that the best way to ensure long lasting peace and understanding between the United States and the countries of Eurasia is to enable young people from these countries to learn about the U.S. and Americans first-hand.
The primary goal of FLEX is to improve mutual understanding between our countries and allow young citizens of Eurasia to have the opportunity to observe and experience the American system of civil society. Since the program’s inception in 1993, over 29 000 young citizens from Eurasia have participated in FLEX and have returned to their countries imbued with a new enthusiasm and desire to help others and share their newly acquired experiences and knowledge for the betterment of their home communities and countries.
How the finalists are selected
An independent commission in the US consisting of highly-qualified specialists in the sphere of education and international exchanges select program candidates. Contest selection will be based on a complete package of the submitted documents; a recommendation letter from a teacher and a student’s readiness for a year-long stay in the USA as an exchange student. Students will also have to provide medical documents indicating that their state of health allows them to participate in the program.
The selection process will be completed in spring 2021, and all applicants will be notified of their status in April – May y 2021. The knowledge of English is an important but not the most essential selection criteria.
What is covered by the program?
FLEX is free for everyone and covers the following:
- travel from home city in Ukraine to the host city in the US and back;
- participation in a pre-departure orientation that includes pre-program preparation;
- participant’s stay with an American host family for one academic year;
- admission to an American high school;
- medical insurance that covers treatment of illnesses that appear while on program except for pre-existing conditions and dental care;
- monthly stipend that constitutes $125 and allows a student to participate in social life;
- additional allowance that constitutes $300 necessary to buy basic school-related items, e.g. school books.
The program also provides on-program support for the participant during the entire year.
What is not covered by the program?
FLEX does not cover the following:
- expenses related to obtaining an international passport and the parent’s permission document that allows a student to go abroad;
- personal expenses exceeding a monthly stipend;
- extra luggage;
- phone calls to Ukraine and internet expenses.
American host families
Students who participate in the FLEX program stay with American host families. Host families host participants on a volunteer basis and do not receive any compensation for this. Host family selection is a long and complicated process, similar to the selection process of the students themselves. Placement organizations are responsible for finding a host family and enrolling a student in a US high school.
Why do American families decide to host an exchange student?
- For the educational value for their children and family;
- To set a good example for their children;
- To get a firsthand, realistic picture of other cultures;
- To give their child the experience of having a sibling;
- To demonstrate their dedication to family and positive development of children;
- Family member may have a personal interest in a particular country;
- A desire to share U.S. culture and customs
Host Family Profile
- Two in five host households are located in the Midwest;
- One third of host families are located in Michigan, Texas, California, Wisconsin, and Washington;
- Predominately Caucasian;
- Host parents typically 35-50 years old;
- Host parents range from 27 to 60+ years of age;
- Primarily middle class;
- Majority live in single family homes;
- In host families with two parents, both host parents work
25% do not have children
- Children have already grown up and left home;
- Do not have children of their own
75% have children
- 26% at least one child over 18;
- 39% one or more children between 14 and 17;
- 22% one or more children between 10 and 13;
- 13% one or more children under 10
- Host communities are predominantly rural or on the suburban periphery;
- Many host families attend church weekly and are primarily Christian;
- Some host families are non-traditional and may have only one parent
Common family rules
- Students are expected to follow the same rules as other family members, including rules about phone and Internet usage;
- Students are not guests, and so will be expected to do the family chores assigned to them
According to the program rules, each participant is placed with a host family that has been chosen by the placement organization. Each finalist has a local coordinator, who is a placement organization employee living not far from the student and monitoring a student’s situation via face-to-face meetings, email, and by phone not less than once a month. A local coordinator is the second person after the host family members who a student should contact in case of any problems.
ACES – www.ExploreTheWorld.org
American Councils – http://inbound.americancouncils.org
Aspect – www.aspectfoundation.org
ASSE – http://www.asse.com/
AYA-AIFS – http://www.academicyear.org/
CCI Greenheart – www.ccigreenheart.org
CIEE – http://www.ciee.org/
FLAG – http://www.flag-intl.org/
PAX – http://pax.org/index.php
States 4-H – http://states4hexchange.org/
STS Foundation – http://www.stsfoundation.org/
World Learning – http://www.worldlearning.org/
World Link – http://www.worldlinkinc.org/
YFU USA – https://yfu.org/