An “Ironhorse” Brigade soldier will return from a rotation to Europe later this year to meet a new member of the family.

Sgt. 1st Class Neftaly Hernandez and his wife, Ivana, will host a young student named Ayaka, an international exchange student from Japan, beginning in August. The Hernandez’s were matched with Ayaka, who will be attending Killeen High School for the academic year through Youth For Understanding USA (YFU).

Neftaly is with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

Youth For Understanding, one of the world’s oldest, largest and most respected intercultural exchange programs, has been changing the way the world is seen through their high school exchange programs. Each year, YFU places hundreds of international exchange students with caring host families across the U.S. and enrolls them in a local area school.

Hosting is all about sharing your version of the American lifestyle with an exchange student while also gaining a new global perspective, many memories and a new family member for life, according to a YFU release. More than 270,000 students and their host families have benefited from their shared cultural experiences. YFU thanks the Hernandez family for sharing American customs and their unique traditions with this young person embarking on a life-changing experience.

“A lot of people are not sure what this hosting all has to offer for the individual, as well,” said Ivana, who is originaly from Germany. “I have experience in both areas — I was a foreign exchange student here in the U.S.A. myself 15 years ago, and now I know what it’s like to host.”

The Hernandez’s met when Neftaly was stationed in Germany. They are currently hosting a student named Lea Maier, who is from a small town in Bavaria, Germany.

Visit or call 1-800-TEENAGE to learn more about local opportunities to host, study abroad or volunteer with YFU. | 254-501-7554 | 254-501-7554

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.