Martin Vogt's route to the first day of classes at South Carroll High School Monday began more than 4,200 miles northeast of Mount Airy -- in the suburbs near Olten, Switzerland.
Olten is a small city of about 20,000 people about an hour from Zurich. Martin, 17, has traveled to Florida, California, Nevada and Hawaii with his family, but the Swiss youth wanted to experience the United States as a high school student.
"I wanted to get to know the USA better -- not as a tourist," he said.
Martin's wish came true thanks to an opportunity provided by Youth For Understanding, a nonprofit international student organization based in Washington. He arrived here from Olten on Aug. 6 and will stay in the United States through July 4.
He and Sven Meyer of Germany are staying with Rex, Della, Jennifer, Shawn and Courtney Richardson of Mount Airy. Both are enrolled as seniors at South Carroll High, where Shawn Richardson is a sophomore.
Although Sven has been permanently placed with the Richardson family, Martin and other YFU students are available for family placements in Carroll or Frederick counties.
This marks the third consecutive school year that the Richardsons have welcomed YFU students into their family. Rex Richardson said they were host to their first YFU student due to prodding by daughter Jennifer.
They continue to be a host family because of the many good experiences, fun and friendship the students have brought into their lives.
"It's been eye-opening for the kids," said Mr. Richardson. "You realize the world doesn't revolve around the USA."
As an example, Mr. Richardson noted a recent family outing to the nation's capital, when Martin and Sven asked the significance of the Lincoln Memorial. "It makes you question some of the things we take for granted," he added.
Della Richardson said she enjoys interacting with the students and learning about their cultures.
"And finding out that teen-agers from other countries aren't any different from ours," she added. "They sleep lots and eat lots."
Families such as the Richardsons are essential to Youth For Understanding programs that include yearlong, semester, summer, sports and community college visits. These programs bring 3,500 youths from about 40 countries to visit the United States each year, said Julie Parlaman.
"We also send about the same number overseas," she said.
Mrs. Parlaman is a New Market resident who volunteers as an YFU area representative to recruit and interview host families. She also works as an executive assistant in the organization.
"It's basically a host family opening their hearts and home to an international student who becomes one of their own," she
YFU students are fully covered by medical and dental insurance and bring spending money. Host families provide a place to sleep, food, and transportation, when needed -- YFU students are not allowed to drive. Mrs. Parlaman said host families may take a $50 per month tax deduction for housing a student.
Area representatives, who are available 24 hours a day, obtain school clearance for their students, arrange for at least three group meetings throughout the year, and mediate problems.
"They do not have to have their own rooms," said Mrs. Parlaman, who added, "Their English is very good."
Martin Vogt said German is his native language. At South Carroll High, Martin is enrolled in Spanish, French, psychology, American history, modern English Literature, and "cooking" classes.
He likes South Carroll and hopes to stay at the school once a permanent host family is found.
"It would be nice [if there's] a host brother my age," he added.
vTC He is a brown belt in karate and enjoys skiing and scuba diving. He said he is a "normal guy" who enjoys nature, eating healthy foods, weightlifting, reading and free time to enjoy his hobbies -- playing the guitar and listening to music.
"I like to watch good movies," he added. "I like much freedom -- that is very important to me."
Martin has finished high school in Switzerland and will attend college when he returns, but he is not sure of his future career. He said it will be a job that involves a lot of travel. Comparing people of the United States with people of other countries is something Martin refuses to do.
"I look at people as individuals, not by country."
Anyone interested in being host of a YFU student, now or in the future, may call Mrs. Parlaman at (800) 424-3691 at work or (301) 831-9905 at home.
Members of the Greater Mount Airy Business Association are holding their third annual Business Expo to help area residents discover the resources and services that are available to them in their hometown.
Mount Airy Business EXPO '95 will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Mount Airy Firemen's Carnival Grounds at Twin Arch Road and Route 27.
Admission and parking are free.
EXPO '95 will feature information about area businesses as well as a farmers' market and silent auction. A moon walk for children, prizes, a free golf clinic, food and demonstrations will be available.
Information: (301) 829-5426.
Spaces still are available at United Methodist Men's Fall Yard Sale on Sept. 9 at Calvary United Methodist Church, 403 S. Main St., Mount Airy.
The event will be held on the church grounds from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. A $15 donation is requested for each yard sale spot. Information: (301) 829-0358.
Mount Airy's resident troopers will be receiving more than just the "fax," thanks to a donation from Mount Airy Lions Club.
Club President Joseph Roemer presented a new fax machine, radio scanner and camera to Cpl. Palmer Grotte for use in the resident troopers' town office. The presentation was made when Corporal Grotte, a supervisor, and Tfc. Julio Valcarsel, the town's fifth and newest resident trooper, attended a recent club meeting to give a presentation about community policing objectives.
Lions Club members decided to help Mount Airy's public safety officers by purchasing the equipment when they learned it was needed but not in the budget.
The Lions Club welcomes new members, 18 years and older, who would like to join its mission of community service. Information: (301) 829-LION.