The International Friendship Program began in the 1980s and was run by a Kearney State College faculty member. It has transitioned through various leaders in the past thirty years, such as UNK faculty and staff members and Kearney community members. The program now has a UNK staff member, Bonnie Payne, solely devoted to it.
The International Friendship Program has gone through several name changes. The original name was Kearney Area Friendship Program. The students began calling it the Friendship Family Program. The purpose of the recent name change to the International Friendship Program was so all community members felt eligible to participate in the program, regardless of marital status or children. Individuals, students, married couples and families are all encouraged to become hosts.
This volunteer program is designed to supplement the students’ academic experience by getting them off campus and into the community. The purpose is to foster communication, cultural sharing and fun activities. Furthermore, it is comforting for students to have a Kearney “family” who cares for them, helping them feel less lonely and home-sick.