District 5400 Welcomes New Youth Exchange Chair, Prepares for the Future
Greetings from your new District 5400 Youth Exchange Chair Mike Markley. I've been John Lodal's understudy for the past three years and I'm very excited for the opportunity to continue the good work of building world connections through the young world citizens who come and go throughout our district each year. We have a phenomenal group of volunteers and committee members and I'm excited to be working with them.
Obviously, this pandemic is generating some challenges for us, and we are grateful for the continued support from all stakeholders as we adapt and press onward. 
Youth Exchange for the 2020-21 Rotary year
In June, the Rotary International Board of Directors provided new safety requirements for districts who choose to participate in the Youth Exchange during the pandemic. These requirements are well-founded and provide comprehensive safety assurances for students, host families, schools, and volunteers. 
Currently, the District 5400 Youth Exchange Committee is modifying its procedures to comply with these new requirements and--if all goes as planned--we will participate on a limited basis this coming school year.  We will exchange 5 students (our original plan included 14) and this will begin in January, 2021, and go for six months. Clubs in District 5400 who are planning to host include Preston, Pocatello, Montpelier, Hailey and Caldwell. These host clubs have been selected based on the availability of volunteers, host families, and placements within schools within those communities.
We have heard the question, "Wouldn't it be easier if you postponed the entire program for a year?" We have wrestled with this question. It's true that it would be easier, but we also have a good deal of support to move forward. And we know of many students in the world who want to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange and they will be too old to do so next year. We are finding strong support from parents as well. We have volunteers, host families, and schools who are ready to press forward. We often tell our participants to find ways to be persistent and use their grit to endure hard times. This idea of grit is a central value for the entire program and we now have this perfect opportunity to demonstrate and model the behavior we want to see in our students. Don't worry; safety is central to our decision-making and by complying with Rotary International's safety requirements, we will have measures to ensure safety, even if that means changing our plans along the way.
Help us find future exchange students for 2021-22
Looking into the future, we are recruiting for the next exchange cycle: the 2021-22 school year. Exchange student candidates apply to go on exchange 12-15 months before they actually leave for exchange and so we are currently accepting preliminary applications for the 2021-22 school year. 
If you know any interested candidates, have them contact Outbound Coordinator Beth Markley (beth@markley.com), or Chair Mike Markley (mike@markley.com), or go to our program website (youthexchange5400.dudaone.com) to access the preliminary application.