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Central Okanagan host families for international students urgently needed

Central Okanagan Public Schools seeking homestay parents for international students
Ecole Kelowna Secondary is one of several local schools that enrol international students.

Central Okanagan Public Schools has put out a call for homestay parents to host international students attending school here this fall.

Kelowna host families are urgently needed for boys registered at École Kelowna Secondary, Rutland Senior Secondary and Okanagan Mission Secondary, and for girls registered at KLO Middle, RSS, OKM and KSS.

The school district is recruiting for families keen to embrace cultural interactions, and who can provide a welcoming and supportive home.

In return, the homestay compensation is $1,100 per month, ongoing guidance and support from homestay programs coordinators working out of schools where international students are enrolled, and a rewarding cultural experience that often leads families to remain in contact with their students after they return home for years afterward.

Raquel Steen, Central Okanagan Public Schools assistant superintendent, said this week was the homestay appreciation windup party for the students enrolled in local schools for the 2023-24 year, and the connective bond that is created from the relationships between students and families was readily evident.

Steen said there are 400 FTEs (full-time equivalents) in the international student program but not all require homestay or matriculation for the entire 10-month school year. Students arriving this fall will be coming from Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Brazil and Mexico to support what the school district calls a boutique program that generates revenue to support an array of other school supports and services not otherwise funded by the school district budget.

Other school districts, particularly in the Lower Mainland, have initiated major international student host programs to generate revenue, but Central Okanagan Public Schools has attempted to balance the potential revenue generated with the student space limitations caused by spiking enrolment in recent years.

Steen added international student enrolment also allows the school district to offer programs that otherwise might not be available due to limited enrolment.

But beyond all that, at the heart of the program are the relationships that often are built between families and their students, a legacy that often continues as they return home and become adults.

Steen reflected on one story she feels is an amazing example of that she just recently heard about, of a Mount Boucherie Secondary art teacher who hosted a student from Belgium.

That student returned home and years later would become a school art teacher herself, and she recently arranged to connect her homestay parent with her students via Zoom to talk about art and Canada. Steen said homestay families often form a deep connection with their students that carries on after they return home through the access to technology.

"These kids grow up and come back to visit them and vice versa...some even get invited to their weddings," she said.

Steen also reiterated that while homestay parents provide a home for the visiting students, issues that arise regarding their schooling are addressed by the school program coordinators, who meet with the students regularly to ensure they are meeting their grade commitments.

For more information, homestay coordinators can be contacted at or call 250-470-3258. Applications are available to be filled out online at

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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