Toledo City Council Honors ACES Students

The Truth Staff

Eighteen foreign high school exchange students from 17 different countries were honored on Wednesday May 8 by Toledo City Council. The students, part of the U.S. State Department funded American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES) program, are spending a year with host families in the Toledo area.

Tracee Ellis, regional director of the local ACES program, described it as “a State Department program that cultivates young global leaders, both American and international.

“We are thankful to these students for their commitment to this program, which is not easy for them to come from their countries and adjust to American culture,” she said.

This year’s group includes a number of students who are here on merit-based scholarships, courtesy of the State Department’s YES (Youth Exchange Study) program and the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) program. Both programs are quite selective in the applicants they grant such scholarships to. YES is geared towards students from primarily Muslim countries and FLEX toward Eastern Europe/Central Asia (the former Soviet bloc) students.

Most of this year’s students had never been outside of their countries, one, in fact, had never been outside of his village.

“We’re thankful also for the hundreds of hours of community service that they have contributed in Toledo and the surrounding areas,” Ellis continued. “We continue to pray today for our students whose countries are in conflict because through our programs we have hope that our students will one day lead and influence their futures, the futures of their countries and relationships around the world.”

This year’s group included, as Ellis noted, a student from war-torn Ukraine, one representing ravaged Palestine and one from Armenia which has been overwhelmed by homeless people fleeing the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh which is controlled by Armenia’s traditional adversary, Azerbaijan.

Whatever troubles await them upon their return, they have had a respite for a year, experiencing quiet lives with their host families, traveling as an ACES group to places such as Chicago and Niagara Falls and, for some, other trips with their hosts.

“Thank you all, our wonderful host families, our high schools, our educators, mentors and volunteers,” Ellis said to the community at large.