Rotary Youth Exchange program taking applications

Maria Paula Arruda, from Brazil, poses with one of her Island hosts, the Naye family, at the Mercer Island High School graduation in June. - Contributed Photo
Maria Paula Arruda, from Brazil, poses with one of her Island hosts, the Naye family, at the Mercer Island High School graduation in June.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

For nearly 20 years, the Mercer Island Rotary Club has hosted one student every year from another country who comes and stays on Mercer Island to attend Island schools and experience life in the United States. In return, Rotarians and host families can have a better understanding of the culture of another country.

This year, youth exchange student Maria Paula Arruda, from Brazil, was selected. Arruda arrived last August and she blended right in at Mercer Island High School. She was hosted by three different families on the Island — Chris and Victoria Helm, Sam and Lucy Sullivan, and John and Dawn Naye — and was involved in many activities provided by the local high schools and the Mercer Island Rotary Club.

Arruda graduated with the Mercer Island High School Class of 2012 in June.

“It has been a life-changing experience for me. I used to be very delicate and danced ballet for eight years. This year, I ran cross country and became an aggressive lacrosse player. There were so many first experiences for me; seeing snow, skiing, playing lacrosse, Halloween, Thanksgiving and my first white Christmas. I have so many wonderful moments here on Mercer Island,” said Arruda. “I’m an Islander now, and I will come back soon.”

Exposure to different cultures ranks as one of the most powerful ways to promote international understanding and peace. The Rotary Youth Exchange program provides thousands of young students with the opportunity to meet people from other countries and to experience new cultures, planting the seeds for a lifetime of international understanding.

Applications are currently being accepted from Mercer Island families interested in hosting opportunities, and from Mercer Island sophomores interested in studying abroad during their junior year.

To learn more about the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, contact Claudina Campbell at (425) 463-9051 or


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