Blogging from Bruce

The school year is winding down at an alarming rate for students and parents alike. I am watching the girls here in my house studying like there is no tomorrow. Ping went to Ms. Newlin’s History ‘Boot Camp’ several afternoons last week to cram for tests. Ji Eun comes in, grabs a snack, shuts the door to her room and I hear books flying and pages flipping.
Erin is reading books or working on papers and projects in between cutting the grass at Grandmommie’s house and dance recital practice. And Ariel has her head plunged into the books and is busily writing those final reports and going through printer ink and reams of paper.
Ping wants to return here to go to an American university. She has already taken the ACT test and scored a 21, which is good, considering English is not her primary language and is her weakest subject. But her determination is amazing, and she wants to work in the international business market with her father.
Her father called us last weekend to thank us for taking care of his daughter and helping her to assimilate our American culture. He is familiar with this area because he comes to the furniture market in Tupelo. He was very excited that his daughter was coming to an area of the U.S. he was familiar with.
He is ready for his daughter to return home for a couple of years and then come back to the U.S. to go to college. He is a worried parent just like any of us would be.
Ping and Ji Eun will be leaving us the last week of May to return to their families. It will be sad to see them leave, but they have learned a lot about rural American life in the 10 months they have lived with us. They have made new friends, learned to better use the English language, and even speak it with a bit of a Southern drawl.
They have learned some slang, and hopefully better understand the American Southern culture. But I know they are anxious to get back to what they are familiar with. I just wonder how it will be for them to readjust to going back to their culture and their schools where individuality is not encouraged.
My family is very excited to be a part of the Global Youth exchange program. I can’t tell you enough how much this has meant to us to be involved in this program.
Yes, there are ups and downs, but we just treat these girls like they are our own daughters. I urge you to pray about it and think about how you can help shape the world, one person at a time. Families interested in hosting will have the opportunity to broaden their horizons, provide a unique contribution to their community and make a positive impact on global youth.
Why don’t you join us in this international adventure? Let me tell you how.
AYUSA International, a non-profit youth exchange organization, is seeking families in the area who are interested in hosting one of these outstanding scholars. AYUSA students will arrive in Calhoun County at the beginning of August, equipped with medical insurance, spending money, a firm command of English and a strong commitment to becoming a member of your community.
Host families are asked only to provide a warm, loving home, meals and sleeping quarters, either shared or private. Students pay for all other personal expenses while on program. This is something that you have to go over with them.
If they want to go shopping, they do it when you go. If they want to eat something you don’t normally eat, they buy it. You just have to lay out the ground rules at the beginning.
Our girls did their own laundry, kept their rooms clean and learned to cook. If they wanted to go to prom or the movies or eat out, they paid for their part. I monitored their spending and made sure they didn’t fritter it away and they had to account for all of their spending with their parents. Their parents just loved that part!
We are already preparing for the next exchange student that will be coming to live with us in August. Her name is Anna, and she is a FLEX student from Armenia. We are already doing our homework, learning what we can about her country before she arrives.
Armenia is a small country. The state of Mississippi is four times larger than her country, and we have half the population! She is coming from a mountainous country where Noah’s Ark is thought to have come to rest after the flood to a land of rolling hills and many trees. Her country was at one time under Communist rule, but it is the oldest Christian country in the world, and that is exciting for me to think about.
The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program gives strong academic achievers from former Soviet countries the opportunity to come to the United States to study and gain exposure to American values and democratic principles. FLEX scholarships are awarded through a rigorous and highly competitive application process.
These kids are coming here to learn what it is like to live in a democratic republic. They are the future leaders of their countries, and they come here to learn and take that knowledge of living in freedom back to their homeland!
Please call me or email me for more information on how to host or be an exchange student, please contact Donna at 682-9971 or 682-7456, or visit the Web site
Be sure and say Vonda sent you!
Vonda Keon is chained to Bruce at the moment, so instead of traveling the world, she’s bringing the world to her. Get some scoop on her travelogue by e-mailing her at


Mack Spencer

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