AFS wins national recognition

Jack Spiegel, Staff Writer

Manhattan’s AFS club is the 2023 winner of the national Global Schools award. AFS Coordinator Janet Hanson will represent the club to receive the award in Washington D.C. during the second weekend of Spring Break. 

The club received this award because of their hard work in making the MHS exchange students feel as comfortable as possible. The AFS club is made up of a group of students who help support the new exchange students each year.

“This is my favorite part,” Hanson said. “It always goes back to friendships and relationships.”

 An AFS colleague recommended to Hanson to apply for the award last year but she declined, then set out to really make changes in this community.

“When the adult group came to me, last year — remember last year was my first year — and they said ‘We think you should apply for the global schools award in a school system that is doing fantastic global education,’” Hanson said. “I’m not sure if we’re doing all of these things. And when I apply for something, I want to make sure that we really are doing everything right. And so, over the course of the last year, we tried to become more active and engaged in the community, but then also to connect with our language programs in Spanish, and French and German and and see all of the things that they have going on and make connections to look at a unit in our social studies department and how we think about global education there.”

Only 10 exchange students are allowed to join the Manhattan High School student body each year. Hanson’s main job is to approve each student that is coming to the school.

And so that’s the fun job because then I get to read their bios, I get to look at their pictures, I read the letters that they’ve written to their host families,” Hanson said. “And there is no way I’m going to say no if they’ve made it that far, there’s no way I’m going to ever say no, because who am I to say no? So, I always say yes. And the agreement that the AFS community, and [Principal Michael] Dorst have made is we can take up to 10 international exchange students a year. And so right now, for instance, I just approved the first five this month.

It is not easy being a foreign exchange student. Students have to leave their home country for the entire school year and stay with a new family while simultaneously missing their family at home. They also have to go to a new school for an entire year while speaking a different language.

They are all so brave, and they come to us,” Hanson says. “They are anywhere between 14 and 18 years old. They are greater than I ever would have been at that age because they’ve left their families to have this experience.

While Hanson has been a huge part in helping the community grow and applying for the award, she does not want to take credit for the accomplishments of the group.

“We’ve got 63 years of people in our community, and our schools now are supported by Global Education. I’m just the person that gets to tell the story,” She says. “I get to run the ball into the touchdown space. That feels pretty good.”

If you want to contribute to the AFS group and host one of our 10 foreign exchange students coming this year, you can reach out to Janet Hanson via her school email or one of the AFS presidents, seniors Kathryn Borthwick or Carys Carver.