Miku Kakizaki, a Japanese exchange student attending Milwaukie High School this year, excited for the opportunity

Miku Kakizaki, a Japanese exchange student attending Milwaukie High School this year, said she was very excited for the opportunity to attend classes locally thanks to the LiveLaughHost program.

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Anthony (from left), Kinsey and Lisa Sarmiento welcome Gaia Giordani from Italy as she arrives at the Portland International Airport to attend Milwaukie High School.Kakizaki wants to go to a university in Milwaukie resident Mary Theirl was ready with a sign to welcome her exchange student, Miku Kakizaki, from Japan.Japan and take classes in international studies.

"They have a very difficult entrance exam and require high-level English skill," she said. "So U.S. experience is very helpful for me. Because I can learn real English and broaden my horizon."

Miku's host, Milwaukie resident Mary Theirl, 77, first hosted some eighth-grade Japanese exchange students in 1991, 1992 and 1993 for three weeks each.

"I no longer hear from them but my first student's grandfather sent me a beautiful clock as a thank-you gift," Theirl said. "It works great."

Prior to Kakizaki, Theirl's last student was from Germany and was with her and her late husband for a full school year in 1997-1998 and also went to Milwaukie High School.

"We still keep in touch," Theirl said. "She is now married and has a cute little 2-year-old boy. Joana's mother and father hosted me for about three weeks about 12 years ago."

Guillermo Beneytez Diez of Spain is embraced by Jena Benologa as he arrives in Oregon to attend classes at Milwaukie High School.Theirl and her late husband hosted because they wanted to help students who wanted to attend school in America.

"Although neither of us can speak their language very well, we learned a lot about their customs," she said. "We found that our ways were more similar than different. We both enjoyed it. By the way, I admire their knowledge of our language. It's far better than I could speak theirs."

Elza Hart, LiveLaughHost academic coordinator, said exchange students come with pocket money from their parents, and they pay for medical and dental insurance. Host families don't need to drive them, as the exchange students take the school bus. Exchange students don't have to have their own rooms and are allowed to share a room in their host family's house with someone of the same gender.

"We ask our host families to provide a warm, loving environment and meals at home," Hart said. "Students live with a family and attend local schools."

For more infomation about how to get involved in the program, call 503-475-1605 or visit

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