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Program provides cultural experiences

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

ALBANY -- Darby Calhoun is one of eight U.S. students who will spend the current school year studying in Spain through a program called Youth for Understanding.

She arrived in Spain last week and started school Monday. Darby is staying with a Spanish family who has a 14-year old daughter. That family's 15-year-old son is an exchange student who is spending the year in Kansas City, Mo.

Darby, after a going away party at her home on Sept. 11, joined her "new" family on Sept. 15 following orientation on Sept. 14. Until school lets out in June 2011, Darby will be part of the Spanish family and will remain in Spain the entire time, including the holidays. She'll have an opportunity to immerse herself in Spanish culture while living in a family environment.

It'll be a big change for the Albany teenager, who would be in her junior year at Westover Comprehensive High School this year. An Atlanta native, the daughter of Bill and Laura Calhoun of Albany has attended Lake Park Elementary and Merry Acres Middle School, where she was in the Excel Program. She has one brother, Will, who is 14.

According to information provided by the Calhouns, Youth For Understanding (YFU) is a nonprofit international educational organization that operates in 64 countries. One of the world's oldest, largest and most respected exchange organizations, YFU has exemplified excellence in exchange worldwide since 1951.

YFU USA administers the Youth For Understanding programs in the United States and is committed to preparing young people for their responsibilities and opportunities in a changing, interdependent world. Working in partnership with governments, corporations, foundations, schools, and educators worldwide to create global learning opportunities, YFU promotes international understanding and world peace.

More than 240,000 students and their host families have benefited from YFU exchanges worldwide, the organization says. Youth For Understanding is a worldwide coalition of committed organizations and individuals. These people are joined by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to acquire the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected, and competitive global society, the organization says.

The YFU USA National Office is in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area with five district offices throughout the United States. A global network of YFU staff and volunteers, subscribing to a common set of quality program standards, helps students who participate in the program. YFU says its offices have been selected to administer more government and corporate scholarships than any other high school exchange organization.