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Exchange program could bring Korean students to Butler County

As many as 250 Korean high school students could participate in a year-long exchange program in Butler County and sharpen their golf skills while they are at it.

The program, still very much in the planning stages, is a cooperative effort between Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, Faulkner University, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trial and the Greenville Golf Academy.

Arlene Davis of LBWCC and John Bou of the Greenville Golf Academy shared details of the plan during the work session of the Butler County BOE last Thursday night.

“Korea ranks among the top countries sending students to the United States for educational opportunities,” Davis said.

“There is a growing interest in the American high school system and the desire for a ‘real’ American experience.”

The game of golf is the country’s most popular sport in Korea, Davis said, and is seen as a status symbol.

Bou said Butler County could reap benefits if the program is put into place.

“These students would certainly spend money in the local economy,” he said.

“And it would provide a wonderful cultural intermix between our countries. They would get to discover this hidden jewel in America.”

Bou said they were hoping to bring 30-40 students to Butler County for the 2010 – 2011 school year, with 150-200 additional students coming later to experience first-hand a year in the life of an American high school student.

The biggest hurdle involved in the process may be gaining I-17 status through the Department of Homeland Security, said Dr. Kathy Murphy, acting assistant superintendent.

“This is a very detailed and specific process and a great deal of work. And one factor we cannot control is how quickly the government agencies will turn things around for us,” Murphy said.

Bou said a decision would need to be made in the next three months in order to have everything in place by fall 2010.

BOE Vice-President Linda Hamilton asked for a complete proposal with a specific timeline to be submitted to the board for consideration.

Board member Joe Lisenby, an avid golfer himself, said he was excited about the possibility of the planned exchange program becoming a reality. “I am definitely interested in learning more about this,” he said.