Resume FLEX Spring 2021 In-Person Program

Resume FLEX Spring 2021 In-Person Program

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Justice Denied started this petition to Britta Bjornlund, Youth Programs Div. Chief, Bureau of Education & Cultural Affairs, U.S. State Dept and

Attn: Britta Bjornlund, Youth Programs Division Chief, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Wash. DC

We respectfully request that you resume the in-person spring 2021 FLEX program to ensure fair treatment of all finalists.

The termination of that program on October 28, 2020 does not treat all FLEX finalists fairly and provide them with equal opportunity. Finalists must now defer coming to the U.S. until the 2021/22 school year. However, deferral is not available or realistic for many finalists. To correct that inequity we are proposing the following limited resumption of FLEX to states that have in-person schooling:

1. FLEX finalists ineligible to defer coming to the U.S. for the 2021/22 school year shall live with a host family in a state that has in-person schooling for the second semester 2021. That is the final opportunity for these finalists to come to the U.S. The main reason for ineligibility is a finalist will be more than 18.5-years-old at the start of their program for the 2021/22 school year.

2. FLEX finalists unable to come to the U.S. for the 2021/22 school year shall live with a host family in a state that has in-person schooling for the second semester 2021. Some finalists may be unable to defer for reasons such as mandatory military obligations in their country, or they are planning to begin university studies in the fall of 2021. These finalists are second-in-line for placement with a host family.

3. FLEX finalists who prefer not to come to the U.S. for the 2021/22 school year shall live with a host family in a state that has in-person schooling for the second semester 2021. Some finalists may prefer not to defer for a reason such as they are going to be a high school senior in their home country. These finalists are third-in-line for placement with a host family.

Texas, Florida, and Arkansas have state-wide in-person schooling. With a total population of 53.8 million those states can easily handle FLEX finalists in categories 1 and 2, and likely also 3. Other states may also have in-person schooling, or decide to do so for the second semester – which begins by mid February. [In-person school data current as of November 2, 2020, https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-covid-19-schools-open-closed.html ]

There are at least six additional reasons for resumption of the in-person FLEX program.

First: Resumption ensures the U.S. State Department keeps its promise to students who entered the grueling FLEX scholarship competition with the understanding they would have the opportunity to be a student and live in the U.S. as their reward for being selected as a finalist.

Second. Resumption will be self-limiting by only involving students who need to take advantage of it. Many finalists will instead want to attend the full next school year.

Third. Resumption recognizes virtual interaction is no substitute for creating memories by personally living and experiencing life first-hand with a host family in the U.S. Personal experience is jumping out an airplane and skydiving to Earth, while a virtual interaction is watching someone else skydive and wondering what it is like.

Fourth. Many foreign students with the financial ability to pay a program are currently living with a host family and attending a public high school in the U.S. FLEX has the backing of the U.S. government. There is no reason for any FLEX finalist to be disadvantaged by not having the opportunity to attend school in the second semester 2021 – the same as students who pay.

Fifth. Termination sent the message to FLEX finalists throughout the world that the U.S. is a “Can’t Do” country.

Sixth. The conditions exist for FLEX finalists to have an equal opportunity to fulfill their dream of coming to the U.S.  Yes they can live with a host family, and yes they can go to school in the second semester 2021.

Within 72 hours the limited resumption of FLEX could be in full-swing, with finalists being placed with a host family. It can happen this quickly because in minutes the FLEX database can identify all finalists ineligible to defer, and within 24 to 48 hours all finalists unable or preferring not to defer could be expected to self-identify after being notified of the program change.

Resuming the in-person FLEX program is an exciting way to demonstrate the American “Can Do” spirit! It would also show the world the interests of finalists are put above all other considerations, because without them there is no FLEX program.

Sincerely,

Hans Sherrer (FLEX host parent, Lacey, WA)

Maja Fetter (2020/2021 FLEX finalist, Poland, ineligible to defer)

Sofiya Maystrenko (2019/2020 FLEX finalist, Ukraine)

Anamaria Zgimbau (2019/2020 FLEX finalist, Romania)

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