Student foreign exchange programs resume with fall classes

A South Dade home welcomes a student from Italy they've been waiting for after COVID-19 put many foreign exchange programs on hold.

MIAMI – When COVD-19 led to the closing of schools last year, it also brought an end to foreign exchange student programs.

Now that schools are once again open, the opportunity to share cultures, customs and traditions is back on track, allowing students from the U.S. and other countries the chance to explore and immerse themselves in new places.

For more than a year, Italian teenager Alice Cadonici has been waiting for the chance to come to America as a foreign exchange student.

On Aug. 10, 2021, it finally happened.

“My mom set me up do everything for me, so here I am. I’m so glad I can do this,” Cadonici said.

She’s now settling into the South Dade home of Shannah Rodriguez-Torres, her husband Raymond and daughter Reyna.

“We have the room, thankfully we have the ability, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”, Rodriguez-Torres said.

Jackie Willock helps facilitate connections between host families and students.

“Finding host families is always a challenge because you don’t always have someone who wants to open their home and heart to a student for five months or a whole year, but we find that we do find those families, so we’re very fortunate, and we do seem to accommodate most, if not all, of the students every year,” Willock said.

Rodriguez-Torres and her husband love hearing the sound of laughter between Cadonici and their daughter.

It’s a reminder of how life might be if their eldest daughter Bella was still here.

She was ten years old when she died from cancer in 2013 and would have graduated from high school in the Spring of 2022.

Instead the family will be planning a graduation party for Cadonici.

“I’m really grateful that we’re able to give her this experience you know, I’m really grateful that we’re able to do that,” Rodriguez-Torres said.

“I was lucky that they found me,” Cadonici said.

For more information on hosting a foreign exchange student, click here.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.