Local Couple Calls Hosting Exchange Students A Priceless Experience

9 of 11 CIEE Students Stayed in North County


(Special to the Independent News)

“It’s like going to Brazil or Germany without leaving home!”  says Pat Weiss, host mother to Brazilian Raquel Visnevski and German Lara Busch.  “I love it!  We have two empty bedrooms.  What a great way to share our American way of life and share our time.  I also get to be ‘mom’ and Raquel and Lara bring us a ray of sunshine.  It’s so much fun and very interesting.  It’s a way to keep learning.  I am so glad that my husband Tony and I said ‘yes’ to CIEE.”

Weiss is referring to a program that brings high school students from many different countries into the United States to learn about our culture, expand their global understanding, and attend high school, while living for 10 months (sometimes 5 months) with a host family.   CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) is a successful nonprofit and non-governmental program established in 1947.

The local coordinator for CIEE is Wanda Grueneberg.  She has been choosing and overseeing students who attend high schools in the metro St. Louis area for decades.  To select host parents is a challenge, as most of the candidates are word-of-mouth recommendations that Wanda receives through her friends, her church community, and the high schools that request to host foreign exchange students.

The Weiss’ girls, Raquel and Lara, attend McCluer North High School.  They took the bus to and from school like all the others in the neighborhood.  Raquel was a cheerleader and Lara is active in theater.  Both girls have said that they have enjoyed being in the United States and have improved in understanding and speaking English.

Pat and Tony Weiss hosted Eva Bottlang last year.  Eva was also a student at

McCluer North and left a lasting positive impression on them and the community.  The Weiss’ plan to host a foreign exchange student next year.

“In our family, we never need an excuse to have a restful or fun Sunday of going to the Arch, going on a hike, going to a movie, or attending a concert or play,” said Pat Weiss.  “The students thoroughly enjoy seeing places and experiencing new things, and of course, new foods.  Raquel and Lara bought Six Flags season passes and they were both pleased with skiing at Hidden Valley.  “There’s never a boring or dull moment in our home.”  Of course, parents of teenagers will experience the usual problems that teens often go through; but, Pat and Tony use a lot of listening skills and common sense when handling problems.

Other foreign exchange students who attended McCluer North were: Remi Bobard, France, sang in school presentation of musical “Joseph and the Many Technicolored Dream Coat; Marienne Aguilar, Mexico, whose English improved immensely while here; Tim Erdmann, Germany, played soccer; Heyang Qing, China;  and Alonso Traconis, Mexico, donated a number of hours for community service at Black Jack Fire Department Qingwei Shao and Yuchen Zhang, China, were  students at North County Christian School, and  plan to return to the US for another year of high school.

For more information  about hosting a foreign exchange student, please contact Wanda Grueneberg at 314-921-3114.  She has  worked with CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) for 16 years hosting 21 students during that time.

A complete description of the CIEE program can be found at www.ciee.org

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