ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – An Atlantic Highlands family is hosting a foreign exchange student from Wunstorf, Germany this school year. The Hancock-Stefan family welcomed Elisabeth Heberlein on August 12th after she spent two days with other exchange students in an orientation program.

Elisabeth’s host father George Hancock-Stefan is a columnist at the AHHerald, a professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, and the pastor of Central Baptist Church, Atlantic Highlands. His wife Ginny is a piano teacher and the music director at the church. Their daughter, SaraGrace, 15, is a sophomore at Henry Hudson Regional. She is a varsity tennis player and performs with the band, acapella choir, and drama club.


Elisabeth Heberlein (l) and SaraGrace Hancock-Stefan (r) stand in front of Henry Hudson Regional School.


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Mrs. Hancock-Stefan has been campaigning to have an exchange student for several years, but this is the first time the Henry Hudson Board of Education and superintendent have given their approval. “I began my involvement with hosting an exchange student during my senior year in high school and have seen how valuable the experience is for the student, the host high school, the host family and the community.  Mrs. Lenore Kingsmore, the principal of Henry Hudson High School, was instrumental in getting the support and approval necessary to have a student attend the school.  Elisabeth, 16, is here on an academic program and could not live with us if the local school did not accept her as a student.  We hope that many organizations in town will invite her to come and speak about the AFS experience.”

Ms. Heberlein traveled to the United States through the American Field Service (AFS) exchange program. AFS exchanges began after World War II, when the director of the American Field Service Ambulance Corps wanted to send German high school students to the United States to heal the divide between Germany and the US. Today, the program sends more over 13,000 students to 50 countries. This year there are 2,515 students placed in homes and schools here in the United States.

“I wanted to see more of the world,” Heberlein explains. “We were here (in the US) but I was small and I didn’t know. I wanted to make my own experience and see how it really is.”

Her favorite experience so far is meeting her host family for the first time. “The first time I met the family, I was so happy because they embraced me and it felt like home.”

Heberlein is a student in the junior class at Henry Hudson Regional High School in Highlands and looks forward to being a part of the drama program and playing sports.

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