Valerie Kinson’s RYE wish is real: South Korea

Tom KingFarragut

As they say at the Academy Awards and Grammys, “… And the envelope please.”

Last week Valerie Kinson, who turns 18 Tuesday and is a senior at Bearden High School, couldn’t wait to open her envelope. When she did there were wide eyes, a major gasp, big smiles, a yell or two, some tears and then she sank to the floor on her knees.  And why, you ask?

When she opened the envelope at a meeting of outbound students, she knew her dream had come true – she was going to spend a year away from home as a Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) student in the country she is passionate about – South Korea. She is being sponsored by the Rotary Club of Farragut.

This will be a “gap year” for her between high school and college. When she comes home from her year abroad, she will begin her freshman year at the University of Tennessee studying computer science.

What drives her excitement about South Korea? “I love the culture. I also love the food and their entertainment and music,” she said. “Their language is beautiful and I am learning how to speak it. I have some Korean-American friends here and I’m ready to go now.”

As Valerie heads out for the year in late July or August, the Kinson family will be welcoming an inbound RYE student into their home – a young man from South Korea.

Valerie’s parents are Monica and Tory and she has two little brothers she says she will really miss.

“As parents, this is going to be one of the hardest things Monica and I have ever done, but in our hearts we both know the priceless value of this experience. It’s going to teach her how to handle life, seek adventure and take the road less traveled. And as Frost’s poem states …’That will make all the difference,’” Tory Kinson said. “We are so grateful for this opportunity and look forward to sharing highlights throughout the upcoming year.”

It’s apropos to say that this is a major Rotary Youth Exchange family. Tory was a RYE student in 1988-89 to Ecuador and when he was working professionally, he returned to Ecuador on business and met Monica there. His father was a Rotarian and his family, living in Danville, Illinois, hosted 10 Rotary exchange students while he was growing up. He remains in touch with a few of them, he says.

At Farragut Rotary, Tory is the club’s co-chair of youth services committee along with Bill Nichols. They coordinate the club’s exchange student program and also work with the club’s two high school Rotary Interact clubs at Hardin Valley Academy and Farragut High School. The club also sponsors a college age Rotaract club at Pellissippi State Community College.

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia and is a past president of the Rotary Club of Farragut. If you want more information about Rotary or are interested in attending a meeting or joining, please email Tom.


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