The Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) and the Youth Exchange Counselor (YEC) are the most critical roles in the RYE program. The wrong choice can be detrimental to the success of an exchange, not only for the student, but also the host club. It is imperative the person chosen is one who is genuinely interested in young people and appreciates the value of the Youth Exchange program. He or she should be able to relate easily to young people to gain their confidence and respect and be in a position to assist and advise them. The counselor should fully understand the responsibilities involved and have the time to attend to them. A person who has worked or is working with young people in schools or local youth services, someone who has a long and successful track record working with young people in the volunteer sector, or someone who has previously hosted or counseled RYE students is an ideal candidate for the role. It may be that none of these options is available and if so, two Counselors should be appointed, one male and one female or only if the student is female, two females. It is preferable but not imperative that these Counselors should not be husband and wife or long term partners.
Being a YEO or Counselor for a student is a task which different Rotarians will handle in their own individual ways. Youth Exchange Students grow in self-confidence and maturity during their exchange year and it is very satisfying for a Counselor to be a part of the process. Although the Counselor cannot be a host parent, it is permitted for the student to stay with the Counselor and family for the first few days of the exchange. This has the advantage of allowing the Counselor and student to connect with each other on a more personal level and gives the student confidence that if the going gets tough then there is someone on hand who they can trust and from whom they will receive sound advice. A student may also stay with the Counselor for short periods when needed between host family transitions or emergencies.