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Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

AFS Gala Celebrates 60 Years of Exchange Students at Heights High

The 2017-18 Heights High AFS students, L-R: top row:  Swalehe Mbagga (Kenya), Carolyn Pavel, AFS Club Advisor, Mercy Sakayian (Kenya), third row:  Mariama Kabia (Sierra Leone), Luciano  Delmonte (Argentina), Roberto  Pastorelli (Italy), second row: Zainab Said (Tanzania), Emmanuel Saah (Ghana),  Almira Udjan (Philipines), first row: Olwethu Zungu (South Africa), Marianella Guerrero (Paraguay) and Nadia Faisal (Malaysia). Not pictured:  Parn Satetapinyo (Thailand). 
Apr. 12, 2018 -- The Heights High School AFS International Exchange Program has been an active part of the Heights community for 60 years. Since 1957, Heights High families have hosted AFS international exchange students or sent their students abroad.

Heights High and the eastside Greater Cleveland AFS program will celebrate this history with an AFS Heights High Gala on Saturday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the high school (13263 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights).

Tickets are $20 per person. Tickets will be available at Zagara’s Marketplace and at the door. Appetizers will be served.

The event will include displays from current Heights High AFS students and performances by Heights High vocalists. Featured guest speaker David K. Ford, one of the original WWII American Field Service ambulance drivers, will talk about his experience and the importance of international exchanges. The AFS-USA President Jorge A. Castro will also speak at the event, along with CH-UH Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon.

During the 1957-58 school year, the first AFS students at Heights High were a girl from Japan and a boy from Argentina. The international student exchange program was fairly young at that time. 

Currently at Heights High School, there are students from Argentina, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, and Thailand. On average, a Heights High student goes abroad for an AFS exchange every year.

“AFS students are a wonderful asset to our school,” said Heights High guidance counselor Michael Murray. “In their classes, they give the American students a personal ‘real’ lesson about life in another culture, and that is something you can’t get in a book.” 

AFS was started after WWII by the volunteer ambulance drivers who transported wounded soldiers to safety from both sides of battle; thus, the name American Field Service or AFS. These ambulance drivers established the exchange program to promote understanding among nations and build cultural awareness.

Heights High has been a strong and consistent member of the AFS global community. The April 21 event will celebrate the long history of international exchanges and cultural learning at the school and look forward to many more years of international exchanges.

AFS in Cleveland Heights, and in every community, is led by volunteers, who are the backbone of the organization. In fact, AFS is one of the largest volunteer-based organizations of its kind.

The April 21 event will be held in conjunction with the AFS National Volunteer Convention in downtown Cleveland.

For more information, contact afs60years@gmail.com or leave a message at (440) 815-1918.

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