Law enforcement ties help families bond as student studies in Iola

Veronica Agostini, of Italy, is staying with the family of an Iola Police officer. Her father also works in law enforcement.

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September 11, 2020 - 3:24 PM

Veronica Agostini at the home of Mike and Nancy Ford. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Veronica Agostini, who is from Italy, surprised her parents with a request to study abroad. They were a little hesitant to allow her to travel to another country to live with strangers for a year, especially during a global pandemic.

Her father, who works in law enforcement, was especially protective. 

His fears were eased somewhat when he learned that Veronica would be living with the Ford family. Mike Ford works for the Iola Police Department. Nancy works for Allen Community College.

Veronica is also interested in law enforcement. She wants to join the Army after she returns to Italy.

The Fords’ children are grown now and have started their own lives. As empty nesters, the Fords thought it would be fun to host a foreign student and have a child back in the house.

Like other local host families, the Fords made the decision quickly. They agreed to host Veronica at the end of July and quickly completed the paperwork, expecting she would arrive in five days.

But when Veronica attempted to make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Italy for her visa, she learned they were backlogged for about three to four weeks.

She finally arrived in Kansas about a week ago and has a few more days of quarantine before she can start school.

She initially hoped she would be placed with a family on the East Coast, but learned the agency wasn’t accepting placements there because of coronavirus restrictions. Many schools across the country have canceled in-person classes, which means students would not get to experience the full cultural experience of studying abroad.

Veronica had never even heard of Kansas.

The Fords have driven her around Iola, though her quarantine period means they’re somewhat limited in activities. 

“It’s a nice city,” Veronica said of her first impressions of Iola. 

The Fords plan to take her on trips to the Grand Canyon, the Gulf Coast and St. Louis.

“We want to be able to share what the U.S. has to offer,” Mike said.

Veronica has traveled to other countries in Europe but this is her first trip to the U.S.

“I want to experience another culture, improve my English and make friends,” she said.

Veronica has played volleyball since she was 7, and is eager to start school and join the team. Games are already underway, but the Fords have talked to coaches to ensure she can play.

“We want to be able to involve her in the community as much as we can,” Mike said. “We want her to have good memories of this experience.”

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