It is with disappointment and sadness that we have decided to cancel the Short Term Exchange Program (STEP) for summer 2020.  As the COVID-19 virus continues to impact countries around the world, we believe it is clear that travel plans abroad would be risky at best. Furthermore, both Spain and Germany have already cancelled their 2020 STEP program.
 
All of our 2020 students have been personally contacted this afternoon to tell them of this decision.  We have decided to honor their present application and current match if possible should our students wish to participate next summer (2021).  If their match withdraws from the program, we will work to make a new match next year.
 
If the student withdraws from our program before June 30, 2020 they will receive a full refund.  If the withdrawal from the program occurs after July 1, 2020 they will receive a $150 dollar refund.  The orientation scheduled for April 2020 will be rescheduled for spring 2021.

DG Note:  Read more for additional information and a recent national award received by our Youth Exchange Team.
The Rotary Summer Tours (East Coast and West Coast) have also been cancelled.  This is something that the inbound students very much look forward to but, again, with the changing situation across our country it is difficult to predict if it will be safe to travel come June.  We are working with the travel agency (Terra North America) and Central States to determine if the students who have paid for one of these trips can receive a full refund.
 
The Central States Youth Exchange Chairs have been meeting (via Zoom) each Thursday evening to talk about the changing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our programs.  At this time, no decision has been made with respect to the CSRYE conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Likely a decision to cancel will need to be made by mid-May.  No decisions have been made either with respect the fall long-term programs.  At this time, we are placing inbound students with our clubs as we receive them. To date, we have received 11 of 25 anticipated applications.  We are hopeful that we can get our paperwork processed and documents in the hands of the potential inbound students soon.  At this time, the USA is not issuing visas but we are hopeful that this will change by early summer if the pandemic becomes better controlled. 
 
We have been working with our inbound and outbound coordinators, Youth Exchange Officers at the club level, and students and parents as families are faced with the difficult decision whether to keep their child "in place" or risk the added exposure to COVID-19 and possible flight difficulties that come with arranging for the students to return home early.  At this time about 1/3 of our students have returned home or are working on making those arrangements.
 
It is a challenging time for Rotary Youth Exchange but thanks to a wonderful team of committed Rotarians, we are going to get through this difficult time.  It is our goal to take good care of those who remain in Wisconsin as we are confident our students who are abroad will also be well cared for.  Many parents have shared their belief in this program with me and have felt well supported during these difficult times.
 
Thank you for your continued support for Rotary Youth Exchange and I urge clubs to continue making plans for the future.  This crisis will end and we want District 6250 Rotary Youth Exchange to be stronger than ever when it does.