Sunday, December 10, 2023

A 33-year-old program returns to York County after 8-year hiatus

A little piece of Germany is coming back to York County this next school year.

During a recent York County School District school board meeting, Sandy Hespe, coordinator of career development for the district, presented information on the Zweibrücken Student Exchange Program which is planned to begin during the 2019-2020 school year.

The Zweibrücken Student Exchange Program is not a new concept in York County. In 1976, the program started as a way to honor the historical connection between Yorktown and Zweibrücken, a town in Germany, Hespe said.

During the Revolutionary War, citizens from Zweibrücken fought as allies alongside the Continental Army in the Siege of Yorktown, which eventually helped win the war, Hespe said.

Related story: Exchange program seeks York County host families

To commemorate the historic friendship, the exchange student program started where students from Zweibrücken would stay with locals in Yorktown for a few weeks and then students in York County would go to stay in Zweibrücken.

The goal of the program was to give students from both countries the chance to explore historical sites, participate in cultural activities, attend school together and experience home life with host families, according to the presentation.

The program was suspended in 2011 because of a reorganization and calendar changes in Zweibrücken that made it difficult to plan.

Now, however, both York County and Zweibrücken are eager to bring the program back but with a few changes.

“As the conversation started with our counterparts in Zweibrücken, we agreed that some updates needed to occur based on past experience…in order to promote the sustainability for the program,” Hespe said.

Related story: Student exchange programs break cultural barriers in Williamsburg-area homes

One of the new aspects is that students who wish to host an exchange student must have already taken three years of a world language or are currently enrolled in year three of a language.

Additionally, Hespe said now each program would have a coordinator who would be available at all times during the exchange experience.

Students will be staying for shorter periods of time, too. After hearing from previous hosts and students, program leaders found the stays that had lasted three to four weeks appeared to be too long for the host families. Instead, students will now only stay for two weeks.

Final details on the program have not been completed yet — the board hopes to finalize funding and program materials to make a community announcement before the end of the summer.

Should the program function on the proposed timeline, families will have access to applications in October and submit them in November.

Following the application process, the program will perform interviews with the applicants and make selections for hosts in December. Then in February and March, there will be informational meetings for parents.

Students from Zweibrücken will finally arrive in Yorktown starting during the YCSD spring break, which begins on April 6.

Then students from York County will visit Zweibrücken for two weeks at the end of June.

Katherine Goff, spokeswoman for the district, said the division is still finalizing program details but once ready, the division will share information with eligible students.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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