Being a support system to many different students from around the world is nothing new to one local resident who has taken on the task for more than a decade.
Copperas Cove resident Dr. John Jones, a retired child psychologist, has been a host parent for foreign exchange students in the American-Scandinavian Student Exchange, International Student Exchange program for 13 years.
He said he merely wanted to make a difference in the lives of as many students as he could.
“I have a philosophy in life. It’s the same philosophy I had while on active duty for 31 years in the Army, and when working for the state of Texas in the youth program,” said Jones, area representative for the exchange program. “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of our next couple of generations. And I think the way to do that is what I’m doing. So far it’s panned out.”
Jones has hosted 36 exchange students in his home and placed more than 100 students in other exchange homes throughout Central Texas. Many of those students continue to correspond with him and still value his opinion, he said.
This year Jones shared his home with two male students from Bangladesh and Tajikistan. Although some students can experience culture shock while living with their host families, Copperas Cove High School seniors Dodojon Khojiev, 17, and Nuhash Gazi, 15, said they not only anticipated the cultural and religious differences, they welcomed them. They had several conversations with Jones before arriving in the U.S. to ensure a smooth transition.
“It’s been amazing for me. People from different parts of the world want to come to this great nation, living the American dream,” Nuhash said. “So we get the chance to be with an American family, and have American friends, go to a school like we see on TV and now we are in the situation by ourselves. So that’s really fascinating for us.”
Dodojon said the friendly southern-style behavior of people had a positive impacted on him, but it was strange at first to see strangers waving and smiling as they went by.
“First of all, the first time I saw it I was like ‘Oh, (Jones) probably knows him since he probably lives in his neighborhood.’ So I asked him and he said ‘No. I don’t know him. I don’t have a clue who is that,’” said Dodojon, who began to follow suit. “I started smiling at strange people, too.”
The two boys are not much different than any other 21st century teenage boy, with interests in extracurricular activities like sports and the prom. Dodojon aspires to be either a psychiatrist or a musician, he said.
Nuhash finds genetic engineering interesting because of the implications to help alter genes and generational diseases as well as the growth of agricultural crops.
Both students are members of the CCHS Varsity Blue tennis team and a Fort Hood choir led by Jones.
After several months of rigorous exams, interviews and academic scrutiny, the two were selected over thousands of other student applicants in their native countries to participate in the YES and FLEX programs sponsored by the State Department.
During their stay, the teens are required to accomplish several tasks, such as serving at least 50 hours of community service. They will serve 16 hours at Windcrest Nursing Home in Copperas Cove.
The teens also must complete three presentations on their home country, three projects on various assignments, and must make one visit to the state capital.