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After twenty-five years, FLEX remains a major opportunity to study in US for Georgian high school students

By Mariam Chanishvili
Wednesday, September 27
Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) is a cultural exchange program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State administered in Georgia by American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS (American Councils) and supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.

The Program provides scholarships for high school students from Europe and Eurasia to spend an academic year in the United States. The programme gives an opportunity to its participants to live with a family and attend an American high school in US.

The U.S. Government feels that it is important to provide meaningful opportunities to young people opportunities that will provide them with global perspectives and a bright future at home, at work, and in international relations.

Many alumni have attended prestigious universities upon their return, and later found exciting jobs to employ skills learned during their stay in the United States. Studies of educational and cultural exchange programs show that participants (students, families, and communities) benefit from learning about other cultures and become aware of other traditions, values, and viewpoints.

Until now in its twenty-fifth year of operation in Georgia, FLEX provides an opportunity for Georgian secondary school students in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades to study at American high schools and to live with an American host family. The program will offer approximately 80 scholarships to secondary school students from Georgia for the 2018-2019 academic years. Scholarship recipients will be provided with a round trip ticket from their home to the United States as well as a monthly allowance for living expenses.

For almost two decades since the launch of its exchange programs in Georgia, American Councils for International Education has been reputed for conducting a fair competition and providing an opportunity to large numbers of individuals all over the country. Nowadays American Councils Georgia office administers a broad range of educational and exchange programs, as well as paper and internet-based tests.

American Councils strives to expand the dialogue among students, scholars, educators and professionals for the advancement of learning and mutual respect in diverse communities and societies.

We had a chance to interview the FLEX Hub Director Kristi Milorava, who is a FLEX alumni as well.

-How can students apply for FLEX Programs?

Kristi Milorava: It is very easy to apply - students just need to come to the testing center, present their birth certificate or ID, one recently taken passport picture and a pen.

The FLEX program is open to all high school students who meet requirements of the program including students with disabilities. We invite all students to participate in the competition who: (1) are presently studying in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades and have good academic standing; (2) were born between January 1, 2001 and July 15, 2003; (3) are eligible to receive a U.S. visa; (4) have not lived in the United States for more than three months in the last five years; (5) are citizens of Georgia; (6) have previously studied English or demonstrate English language abilities.

Students go through three rounds of testing and upon successfully completing all three rounds of selection they become finalists. Independent committee of evaluators selects the finalists and students from Georgia are given this meaningful opportunity since 1993.

-What are the benefits for the students in the future (what is your viewpoint being a former FLEX)?

Kristi Milorava: FLEX program is a huge step forward for the success of the teenagers and we have proofs of this by seeing our program alumni in many leading positions locally and internationally. This program opens doors to the students that are full of innovations and new opportunities not only for their personal achievements but also for the countries where they are from and where they share their gained experience. I am personally thankful to the founders of this program for giving me and many other participants a chance to gain a great network of people who stay in our lives forever whether it is American friends we've gained in US or the program alumni who are a group of welcoming and supporting to other FLEXers.

- When will FLEX testing take place this year?

Kristi Milorava: The FLEX Program Testing is offered in many different testing centers, including Ninotsminda, Gori, Telavi, Zugdidi, Rustavi, Batumi, Marneuli, Kutaisi, Akhaltsikhe, Borjomi and Tbilisi.

The testing started from September 18 in Ninotsminad. The Testing Center in Tbilisi is Public School #55 and the testing will be held on October 28 at 10:00am.