Payson Community Christian School will host roughly 30 South Korean students this January, and local organizers are seeking donations to foster a complete American experience.
Debbie Stephens, whose two children attend the Christian school, has helped organize field trips to places like the Grand Canyon and Tonto Natural Bridge and plan theme weeks with activities like rodeo and an American birthday party.
However, organizers are searching for donations like cowboy hats or food for the various events. Stephens helped bring the students to Payson through a partnership with the California State Christian University’s Children’s Academy, which brings Korean students to towns and cities across America.
The goal, said Dr. Bob Orr, the vice president of CSCU, is to allow Korean students to learn conversational English and American culture.
After the Korean War, missionaries traveled there and Christianity has blossomed, Orr said.
"The new president of Korea established a program because of their great friendship with the United States,” Orr added. “They really believed that (English) was going to be the language of commerce in the future.”
South Korea is predominately Christian and Buddhist with the former comprising a slight majority, according to the CIA Factbook.
The students coming to Payson will stay in town for four or five weeks, but will also travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Disneyland before flying into Phoenix. Their entire American excursion will last seven weeks.
“There’s only one Grand Canyon and one Payson rodeo,” Orr said. “You can’t export that.”
Host families have already been found, but Stephens said she is looking to rally communitywide support.
Orr said the Korean government or the students’ parents pay a flat rate to send the students here. “We’re not in this to make money for ourselves,” he said. Leftover funds help either the host school or fund scholarships for future students.
“It becomes something where the community can be enriched by having the students here,” Orr said.