There is little more rewarding than helping a child grow and learn. With her own four children successfully living on their own, Marietta mother Debby Coss recently seized an opportunity to continue fostering young individuals, accepting an offer to host a high school student from Brazil and later a student from Germany.
The International Cultural Exchange Services experience is designed to be enriching for the students, but the experience has been equally enjoyable for Coss, who still stays in contact with the young men she has hosted and their families though social media.
"You maintain a great relationship with them. You're not like their mother. Where mothers often want to baby them, the program encourages you to urge them to be independent. They feel like they can come to you with things," she said.
Photo courtesy of Debby Coss
Host mom Debby Coss, second from right, poses for a photo with German exchange student Frederik Hartmann, right, and her sons, from left, Dan Coss and Rich Fordham. Integrating students in the International Cultural Exchange Services program into everyday family activities is one of the many goals of the program.
After hosting two students in 2013, Coss intends on taking a break from the program during the upcoming semester. But she knows she will host more students in the future.
"I just love it," she said of the program.
Question: How did you get involved with the International Cultural Exchange Services (ICES) program?
- Age: 63.
- Residence: Marietta.
- Hobbies: Socializing with friends, entertaining, continuing education and following sports.
- Volunteerism: Host parent for International Cultural Exchange Services program.
Answer: My daughter, Madeline, is in performing arts: theater, dance, singing. Someone called us and said there was a student. They wanted to know if we would consider placing a student because he was also into performing arts.
Q: How does the program work?
A: It's pretty extensive. They do a background check on the adults, and they inspect your house. You have references. The whole clearing process takes at least a month. We agreed to take this young man, this Brazilian man, (Morel) Gustavo (Juiz de Fora). He and my daughter both auditioned for a play with the MOVP (Mid-Ohio Valley Players). They did that together. And he was also doing a musical at Marietta High School. The thing is with the kids in the program, these kids really want to experience a lot. They're usually in sports and extra curricular clubs and have an active social life.
Q: How many kids have you hosted?
A: We've only had two. Gustavo and Frederik (Hartmann) from Germany. They typically stay six months to a year. Gustavo and Frederik stayed six months each.
Q: How does the program benefit these kids?
A: They're mostly interested in our culture. Frederik most clearly said that everybody is curious what it's like to live in the United States. We talked a lot about cultural differences. 'How would you do this in Germany or Brazil?' Those two countries are very different. Brazilians are very fun loving. Gustavo would take his iPad to the bathroom and sing very loudly in the mornings. Germans are more reserved and serious. Frederik was a very friendly, sincere, conscientious young person. He would come home from school and walk the dog.
Q: Do you stay in touch with them?
A: Yes. I will probably go to Brazil. Gustavo's mother, probably about every three or four months asks me when I'm coming to Brazil. He is an only child and I was quite impressed that she was able to let her adorable 15-year-old come to the United States.
Q: What do you enjoy about the experiences?
A: Their personality is what stands out to me. They were very different, interesting kids. We all talk a lot about our culture and their culture. I just got really lucky. Both of my kids were really fun. We did a lot of things. We did a lot of trips. None of my children live here anymore. Frederik and I went and met my family at a cabin in Asheville (N.C.) for Thanksgiving. The ICES group sponsors a number of trips. Gustavo was almost always too busy for those. He and I had small trips.
Q: How can others get involved in this program?
A: This program is for anybody who wants to add a little richness to their life. The students just make your lives richer. One of the big successes of ICES is the coordinator (Vicky Hite). She's very supportive. She is very thorough. She just does an excellent job, both with the students and the host families. People (that want to get involved) can get information through Marietta High School.
This interview was conducted by Jasmine Rogers.