At a quiet moment in the middle of a week-long, 3,000-mile road trip, Kristina Belasova, our exchange student from Slovakia, looks over at me and says sadly, “Lori, today I have only two more months in US.” I immediately tear up and tell her, “Hey! Don’t do that! It’s going to be hard enough to say goodbye without anticipating it. Besides, we still have a lot of fun experiences to share in two months.”

The next day there’s a quiet moment and she looks over at me and says soberly, “Lori, today we have LESS than two months.”

A year-long Rotary youth exchange shapes and bonds people. It’s a year of firsts…and a year of lasts. These kids take a first step off an airplane after a grueling transatlantic flight, far from everything they know and love, and they trust that there’s someone to pick them up.

Someone has to pick them up. Someone has to explain what’s expected. Someone has to get them where they need to be next. Someone has to reassure them that this will a great year. Someone has to make it a great year.

The people who volunteer on the youth exchange committee, the families that host students, the Rotarians who serve as family or student counselors or are simply members of the host club, the schools that enroll and educate these kids, these are the “someones.” You are the “someone,”

Today, as I write this, we have only one month left. Tomorrow we will have LESS than one month. I’ve tried to only cry in private so Kristina can enjoy every second of the time she has left here and this time we have together. But she’s a smart girl and I know she knows. We have one month left of firsts–her first Rotary International Convention, first time waterskiing or wakeboarding, first visit to Six Flags. Then we will have a last. A last look at her bedroom while it’s still her bedroom. A last hug goodbye at the airport when she’ll make the long flight home to her first family, the one who trusted her to someone.

Thank you to all the someone’s who have made this such a great year.

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