POWELL, Wyo. - Northwest College is looking for individuals and families who want to learn about other countries and cultures through friendship with an international student.
"Our International Friendship Family (IFF) program is an offer of friendship only. It doesn't involve a student living in your home," said Rosemary Reno, who chairs the NWC International Friendship Committee. "The amount of time a family commits to a student is determined by the level of relationship they want to establish. It can be as often as a weekly dinner or as infrequent as a monthly visit."
Reno said many friendship families find themselves celebrating holidays, going to the movies and having fun cooking with their students and sharing recipes.
"Individuals without families are more than welcome in the IFF program, too," Reno said. "It doesn't take a family to reach out in friendship, just an open heart. These students really appreciate a touchstone in the community, a way to understand our culture outside of the college setting."
The demand for friends is greater than ever with the rising number of international students attending NWC. This fall, new students in need of friendship hail from Brazil, Chile, China, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Reno and her daughter are both volunteers in NWC's friendship program. They've doubled the fun by involving both their student friends in combined birthday celebrations and other family functions.
Before moving to Powell, Reno lived 22 years in Mexico. She's traveled the world extensively with visits or extended stays in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Even though she's only lived in Powell fewer than five years, Reno is active in the community as treasurer for the Rotary Club, on the Community Concert Series board of directors and as financial coordinator for Women's Connection.
Harriet Bloom-Wilson, an assistant professor of French and director of international academic programs at Northwest, said, "We're very fortunate to have someone of Rosemary Reno's caliber to replace Elsa Reichert, who has been such a wonderful resource in this role for so long."
"I encourage anyone," Reno said, "who's even slightly interested in forming a friendship to call or e-mail me to discuss what's involved. It's easier to make a decision, one way or the other, if your questions are answered."
Reno also encourages individuals to become part of NWC's International Friendship Committee, regardless of whether or not they're interested in volunteering as a friend.
"This committee matches international students with friends, and works to integrate the students into the community," Reno said. "We're always eager to hear new ideas and develop ways we can show how warm and welcoming the Powell community is. We meet only periodically, so it's not a big time commitment."
For more information, e-mail or call Rosemary Reno at (307) 754-4061, or (307) 202-0404, before Sept. 1.