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Jenny Hedal introduced the speaker for the meeting, Emma Mulhern.  Emma is the past year (’19-’20) president of North Star Rotex.  She is a senior at the University of Minnesota studying International Business and Supply Chain Management.  Emma became involved with Rotex after spending her high school junior year in Finland through the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program.  The purpose of the presentation was to inform our club about RYE and Rotex, where Rotex fits in Rotary and how Rotarians can support Rotex.
North Star Youth Exchange represents districts 5950 and 5960, and was founded in 1961.  Through North Star Youth Exchange, each year approximately 90 students get to have exchange experiences in 30 different countries.  Of the 90 students, about 50-60 are long-term exchanges and the others are short-term.  Long-term exchanges are 10-12 months where 15-19 year olds live with host families and attend local high schools representing their home countries.  Short-term exchanges can be family-to-family where two participants spend one month with each family during the summer.  There are also international camps for 1-3 weeks with themed international experiences.  Participants up to 25 years old can participate depending on the camp.
Emma discussed the application process and how participants are vetted.  She indicated there are always more applicants than available exchanges so it can be competitive.  Emma talked about her exchange experience in Finland where she played high school hockey in a town of 10,000 people. 
North Star Rotex is an organization where participants are former long-term RYE participants.  To become a member, RYE participants can either attend an overnight event or wait one year from returning.  Rotex is a service organization and a community of people with similar experiences. 
Rotex helps inbound students through an inbound orientation where they give them tools to succeed, host a Halloween weekend event, host a country fair where participants promote their home countries and have a farewell weekend event.  Candidates about to leave for an exchange are helped through an orientation where they are given advice from former RYE participants.  Rebounders coming home from an exchange are assisted with a rebound weekend were they discuss issues such as reverse culture shock and living with parents again.  In addition, Rotex is a support system for former RYE participants who understand each other through similar experiences.  They have social events throughout the year and the most popular is an all ages get-together.
Rotex International was established in 2016 and helps promote and connect Rotex internationally.  There is an annual Rotex promotion week and international convention.  The 2020 convention was cancelled due to COVID and the 2021 convention is August 5-8 in Curitiba, Brazil.
Next, Emma explained how Rotarians can support Rotex: 1) support North Star Youth Exchange; 2) understand what Rotex is and spread the word; and 3) connect with and get to know Rotex – connect on Instagram or LinkedIn.
As with most organizations, North Star Youth Exchange has been impacted by COVID-19 and Emma provided an update.  Most exchange students have returned home early from their exchanges.  There will be virtual short-term exchanges and camps this summer.  No long-term programs will occur for students this year, however they are still recruiting students for 2021-2022.