Mercer Island High School hosts Taiwanese exchange student - 15-year-old was bound for New Orleans

By Katherine Sather

Mercer Island High School is hosting an exchange student this fall who was originally bound for New Orleans.

Fifteen-year-old Kevin Lin, from Taiwan, enrolled last week.

He is staying in Ballard with John Parker, the technical director of the school theater. Parker formerly counseled foreign exchange students at Lake Washington High School and responded to an advertisement on Craigslist, an online classifieds site, asking for help relocating exchange students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

``I just answered, saying I could try and help,'' he said. ``I told them to put me down as a last resort.''

It turned out that Parker was Kevin's best bet. None of the Seattle schools had room for Kevin, said Kathy Bowe, a representative with DM Discoveries, the exchange agency that posted the ad. Her company found Seattle-area homes for four New Orleans-bound students this fall. Since Parker is a Mercer Island school district employee, Kevin was able to enroll at MIHS.

``This whole thing has been almost eerie in how everything has fallen together,'' Bowe said.

But the commute from Ballard is tiring, and Parker thinks Kevin might be better off staying with a family on Mercer Island.

``It's only his third day in the country, and he's learning the Seattle bus system,'' he said last week.

Kevin has to take two buses to get to Mercer Island in the morning, a trip that makes him 15 minutes late for his 8 a.m. class. After school, he changes busses three times for an hour-and-a-half journey home. The commute costs $1.75 each way.

``It's a little bit crazy,'' Parker said. ``I don't know when he's going to get to study or meet other kids.''

Kevin, a sophomore, is from Taipei, Taiwan's largest city. He auditioned and was accepted in the advanced steel drum class at MIHS and plans to study here for the whole school year.

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