Local Families Share Thanksgiving with Wellesley Students

November 18, 2012

For the fifth consecutive year, the Alumnae Association has partnered with Slater International Center to run the Thanksgiving Match Program, which connects students who remain on campus during Thanksgiving break with local alumnae, faculty, and staff families. The program gives students whose own families are far away a chance to get off campus, and enjoy a family setting and a home-cooked meal. A large proportion of student participants are from other countries, so the program can introduce them to their first American Thanksgiving. “The international students benefit so much from this program, and [Slater Director] Karen Pabon does a great job of publicizing it to all of them,” says Mary K. Casey, assistant director of classes for the Alumnae Association.

Casey organizes the program and matches students and host families. Student and host information is collected through online forms, which are publicized through Google Groups, Wellesley College Alumnae of Boston, Slater International, Residence Life, and other campus partners. The matching process is no simple linking of column A and B.

The online forms collect useful details about both students and hosts, allowing Casey to make the most suitable matches possible. Various student preferences are met, including vegetarian or pork-free meals, and pet-free (or pet-full!) homes. Students who request campus pick-up and drop-off are matched with hosts who can offer transportation. “Some families offer to host students for the entire long weekend,” says Casey, “and provide private bedrooms and baths to their guests who express interest in overnight or weekend-long visits.”

This year Casey matched 29 students with hosts. In the five years the program has been running, it has steadily grown. And that accounts for some drop-off too: Some alumnae who have participated in past years write to tell Casey that they aren’t signing up for the program—because they’ve maintained a relationship with past year’s visitors and personally invite them back to their home for the holiday!

After last year’s holiday, a student wrote to Casey:

Thank you, Mary, for promoting this program. Without you, many students, including myself whose only family is overseas or far away, would have spent Thanksgiving by themselves on campus thinking mostly about how much work they had to do over break. I would also like to thank the families that agree to participate in this program for opening up your homes to complete strangers and making us feel comfortable and welcome.

The feeling is mutual from host families, one of whom wrote:

This was our third year hosting and, as we have come to expect, it was a wonderful experience…. Both my [young adult] children love having the Wellesley students. Even though we've only been doing this for a few years, both my kids have said that it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them.