Foreign Exchange Students Rescue Rural School District

Published 12/18 2013 06:03PM

Updated 12/18 2013 07:05PM

LEAD HILL, Ark. -- Visitors to a Lead Hill High School Classroom might hear echoes of greetings in as many as nine other languages.

The district is hosting 21 different foreign exchange students for the year. Including the international group, the high school instructs just 180 pupils.

The cross cultural experiment began as a way to boost the district's enrollment, according to John Davidson, the superintendent of the school. The school nearly fell below 350 students in K-12th grades, a decline that would have cost Lead Hill its accreditation. Davidson and other administrators convinced nearby families to host foreign exchange students to increase the student body to a manageable level.

"The hidden consequences have been so tremendous," Davidson said. "These 21 students have brought a whole different outlook to our school."

Many of the students come from big cities. One remarked, "It's really very different. I never walk, I never ride a bike."

Others are used to different customs. A Dutch student said she thought it was weird that Americans usually eat without a knife, choosing to cut many entrees with a fork.

"Our kids have blended together so much more and have learned to actually experience each other," Davidson said.

To find out more about the students, visit the school's website.

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