Dalton Public Schools opened its doors to host 20 exchange students from the Martino-Katharineum school in Braunschweig, Germany. Students spent 10 days staying with host families, attending school and participating in activities in the area.
The plan to host the German students came together with short notice after their original host school cancelled over the summer.
Caroline Woodason, director of school support, has primarily coordinated the exchange program. She said the district stepped up to help the exchange move forward after their original plans fell through.
“I got an email very late in July saying there was a German exchange program and another school in Georgia had cancelled on them,” Woodason said. “They asked if we would be willing to take them.”
After talking to Laura Orr, chief academic officer, and Dr. Tim Scott, superintendent, Caroline began making plans. According to Woodason, “they were all for it.”
Although Woodason was worried it would be difficult to find host families in such a short amount of time, the families in Dalton Public Schools quickly came to the rescue.
“Dalton families really stepped up,” Woodason said. “We’ve had a really good experience. They’ve been excited to have the kids, everything has gone really well.”
Twenty host families representing Brookwood, Dalton Junior High School and Dalton High School have welcomed the 20 students and two chaperones into their homes.
The families have not only provided lodging for the visitors but also have given them a taste of American life.
Many families took the students on day trips when there was free time to visit the regional landmarks and tourist spots.
They have shown true southern hospitality by opening their homes and their hearts for a wonderful, German-American Exchange.
In order to ease the financial burden on the district, Woodason was able to apply for a $10,000 grant through the Halle Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that seeks to build relationships between Germans and Americans. The district received the grant, and those funds have been used to cover meals, excursions and other expenses incurred by hosting the exchange students.
The students have eaten traditional southern foods, enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal, attended a Dalton High School football game, visited local businesses and tourist destinations including the Aquarium, Rock City, World of Coke and more.
Mackenzie Kluttz is a senior at Dalton High School, and her family is one of the host families for a German exchange student. She said it’s been a great experience, and she’s enjoyed getting to know the exchange students.
“I have enjoyed being able to ask them questions,” Kluttz said. “Being able to see an outside point-of-view is fun to watch.”
Line Lorenz is one of the students from Germany. She said she has always wanted to visit the United States.
“I thought it would be great to get to know the people here and the culture,” Lorenz said. “We’ve done so much here and everything was great. It’s been great to have the experience.”
Henriette Klippel is another student from Germany.
“I like communicating with people here,” Klippel said. “I realized Americans are so nice in general, they just want to talk to you. It’s really nice getting to know people, it’s just really cool.”
Woodason said she hopes that this visit will start an ongoing relationship between Dalton and Germany.
“It also is a great springboard for us,” Woodason said. “We have German dual language immersion for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a German exchange program for them to go to Germany, and this has been a catalyst for our parents to think, we can do this.”
The students will be returning to Germany at the end of this week, but they all said they hope to keep in touch with their host families for many years to come.