FREMONT, Ind. (WAWV/WTWO) – A high school student exchange program is on the look out for local families to open up their hearts and homes to students abroad.

Representatives from ASSE International Student Exchange Programs said that there is a need for local host families for the upcoming school year.

Although students can be placed in any school district Indiana coordinators said there is a great need for host families here locally.

ASSE plans to place over 1,300 high school students nationwide this school year, however, the organization still has over 500 students who have yet to be placed.

ASSE State Coordinator Kristen Watkins said she recently moved to Indiana to seek out more host families around the state.

“In Indiana last year we had about 10 host families so that’s one of the reasons that I came on board,” Watkins said. “Our goal for this year is to find probably 20 to 30 host families in Indiana.”

Over the past couple school years, Watkins opened up her home to five different students from all over the world. She said while some students may have trouble acclimating to their environment initially, it’s great to see them come out of their shell.

“You get to see them experience trick-or-treating for the first time in their life, as well as a thanksgiving dinner and Christmas,” Watkins said. “Our Christmas traditions are usually vastly different than what these kids are experience at home.”

Midwestern Regional Director for ASSE International Saphia Lesch said the organization typically likes to place students in smaller communities. This aims to give exchange students as well as local students an opportunity to get to know one another’s culture.

“They’re opening up the eyes and really educating the community on their culture and not only their culture but other cultures as well,” Lesch said.

Lesch said the role of a host family is quite simple.

“The host families provide room and board and a little bit of love,” Lesch said. “We ask host families to bring the students into their home and basically treat them as their own children.

ASSE will require a background check, a home visit and someone in the household to be at least 25-years-old. If interested, Lesch said it’s important to note all three meals a day must be provided to the exchange student.