BY LORNE ECKERSLEY
“Canada was built on immigration,” says Jo-Anne Schultz.
Now the home stay coordinator in Creston for Kootenay Lake School District, Schultz says that while international students don’t necessarily intend to return to Canada later in life, they often do.
“International students are great for immigration,” she said on Friday. “They get to know the country and our culture, and we get to know them as students.
Schultz, who has worked for the school district in various capacities since 2008, is on a mission to expand the international presence in Prince Charles Secondary School.
“Last year Creston had 8 international students—and Nelson had 55!” she said. “I think it’s important for people to understand the difference these kids make in our little town. They add to our economy and our culture.”
It’s a delicate balance to bring in more international students and have a bank of host homes available, Schultz admits. Bring in too many students too fast and host homes become a challenge. Recruit more host families than are needed and they can easily lose interest.
Confident, though, that she can find enough suitable host homes (hosts get $850 per month to compensate for the additional expenses), Schultz will be travelling to Chile and Brazil this fall to promote Creston as a destination for a quality educational experience.
“I love all things international,” says the woman who set up a cooking school in Belize to combine her passion for cooking and travel. “This job is a great match for me.”
One of the appeals of Creston, she said, is that the schools and region has a strong First Nations component, which allows international students to get a better understanding of Canada’s history.
“I really believe in the integrity of our program—Creston Valley has so much to offer, and the program gives much back in return.”
Schultz emphasizes that home stay hosts do not have to have children at home. She works closely with hosts—some of whom are grandparents—and the prospective students’ families to find a suitable match.
“We had a twelfth grade student who lived with a family near Sirdar, and she was really happy there,” she said.
When prospective students are identified, Schultz provides their families with a couple of options for home stays.
“We are looking for people who care about international students and their education,” she said. “And we need a variety of families in different areas of the valley to provide choices.”
Typically, students arrive for a full year of studies in late August, then travel home for Christmas and spring breaks. But there are short-term three-month stays that start in January, too.
For more information about the international student program and home stay requirements, Schultz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.