At a regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, Rotarian Mark Wright explained how the RYE program works. The RYE program creates worlds of possibilities, leadership skills, lifelong memories, and new friendships for both students and the families they live with during their time away. Designed for high school students aged 15 to 18.5 at the time of departure, over 9,000 students around the globe participate in the program each year and the RYE program offers a fun, yet safe way to travel and immerse yourself in another country and culture.

Mark explained the details of the Student Exchange program is run through ESSEX (Eastern States Student Exchange Program) which provide structure and oversees the program for Rotary Districts along the East Coast of Canada and the US, including Bermuda. Students enter the US on a J-1 visa and host parents and volunteers are required to complete a background check and training from the Department of State. ESSEX also requires the use of certain insurance programs and travel agencies to ensure the safety of the students during their year abroad.


During the academic year (typically August to June), the students attend the local high school and live with a host family, may also take sponsored and Rotary sanctioned trips throughout the country. Mark’s daughter is currently in Argentina and will take three extensive trips during the year and his exchange student from France will take a month-long trip around the United States.


ESSEX also offers short term Student Exchange programs for several weeks over the summer. In our District, we focus on Japan and have established an excellent exchange experience.


Our district collaborates with neighboring Rotary districts (eastern PA and southern NJ) during the year with a goal to bring the bring the exchange students (15 total over three districts) together once a month. We had a joint orientation in September, followed by a Halloween party in October and a Friendsgiving in November. In December, we went to NY City and in February, the exchange students will have an international pot luck supper where each student brings a dish from their home country. The event is in Allentown, PA.


In March or April, SSEX will decide on the exchange student match for the 2024-2025 academic year. The students put in their top 5 countries, and the hosts put in their requirements. For Example, Mark asks for girls since he has 3 daughters, and someone who does not speak German, since both he and his wife are fluent, and find it more interesting to deal with someone speaking another language.


To find out more about the program or to apply, go to the ESSEX website:



The Rotary Club of Westfield is holding their annual fundraiser for scholarships called Breakfast with the Bands on Saturday, March 2nd from 9 am to noon, at the Westfield High School cafeteria. Tickets are $10 at the door.


Last year the Rotary Club of Westfield Foundation awarded $117,000 in college scholarships and $29,978 in community grants. Recently, the Women’s Club of Westfield ceased operations, and turned their assets over to the Rotary Club Foundation to continue their legacy, which will add another $30,000 in annual scholarships for women students, and an additional $9,500 in community grants. Since 1967, Westfield Rotary has awarded $3.5 million in scholarships to 1800 students. Scholarship applications for Westfield students are available through the Westfield High School Guidance Department.


The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website  or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email


Photo: Left to right: Clara Fauvieux (Belgium, hosted by the Rotary Club of Philipsburg, NJ); Rotarian District Chair Mark Wright; Antonio Mao (Taiwan, hosted by the Rotary Club of Caldwell, NJ); and Serena Chalon (France, hosted by the Rotary Club of Westfield, NJ). The flags represent Belgium, Taiwan and France respectively.