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Lakewood Exchange Program

The Lakewood Shire-Chuo City Exchange Program is a reciprocal 6 month educational exchange that focuses on educational exchange

We have made the difficult decision to cancel our exchange programs for safety considerations. Programs will resume in 2024 with applications tentatively opening in November.

Due to COVID-19, and postponement of Olympics to 2021, exchange programs are cancelled for the 2020-2023 school years.


This "award winning" program provides a unique and reciprocal opportunity for high school students in the Sutherland Shire to live and study in our sister city Lakewood, Colorado for 6 months, and in return, host a Lakewood student for the same amount of time.

Australian students are paired with an American student and family. Sutherland students then travel to Lakewood to stay with their American family for the last six months of the year, and this is reciprocated by the American student travelling to Sutherland and staying with their host family for the first six months of the next year. This provides a unique opportunity for students from each country to experience life overseas with another family.

Students will meet new people, make new friendships, work together as a team, overcome challenges, develop future opportunities, expand horizons and become ambassadors for their family, Shire and country.


What will you do?

Students from Sutherland Shire will attend an American High school and have the chance to compete in an American sport or other school activity. 

They will live with and become part of an American family, who will be doing their best to showcase their country. They will spend time camping, hiking and possibly skiing the rocky mountains, experience Halloween and Thanksgiving and maybe have a white Christmas, and if all goes well spend a few days in Disneyland on the way home. 

Who can apply?

To apply students must be in year 10 this year (2021) in a high school in the Sutherland Shire. Applicants must also live in the Sutherland Shire or Helensburgh.

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What will it cost?

The cost of schooling and board is covered by the respective Australian or American host families of their visiting students.


The main costs are airfares and insurance. These are the responsibility of the families and is organised as a group. Travel/health insurance must cover the student for their extended stay.

The cost of "side" trips in USA will depend on the destinations chosen for the Liaison weekend, plus any other expenses. This will be negotiated with the Australian and US organisers. In past years a very large percentage have been covered by fund raising.    

*Due to COVID-19 prices will vary based on airport taxes, airfares, travel insurances etc

The application process

Ready to apply? Here's what happens.

Downloading the form and brochure

Download the application form here if you're ready now. This tells us a lot about you, your likes and dislikes, and if your application is successful will assist us in pairing you with an American student.

What happens after submission

Attend a number of interviews and social events, where we will will get to know you further.

Need more information?

Attend one of the information nights which are advertised in the Leader newspaper and held at the Sutherland Shire Council Chambers. ​If you missed the Information night don't worry, please give us a call or contact via the website.

Frequently asked questions

How many students are selected?

This depends on the number of students applying both in Sutherland and Lakewood. In previous years it has varied between 4 & 12. The current and previous groups consisted of 8 Australian and 8 American students.

Is this exchange officially recognised?

The Sutherland Shire-Lakewood Sister City Committee Student Exchange Program is registered by (part of the NSW Department of Education).

The Sutherland Shire-Lakewood Sister City Committee assures all applicants and participants, that the conditions of the for Secondary Student Exchange programs are continuously met.

Am I really likely to have a white Christmas in Denver?

Another a good question, in these days of global warming and generally unstable weather, your guess is as good as mine, however statistically you have a better than 50% chance of having at least 25mm of snow on the ground on Christmas morning. If you are paired with someone who lives in the foothills behind Denver your chances head up into the +90% region.

Do I still have to go to school if it snows?

That depends on whether the Jeffco School District declares a snow day or not, but yes if it snows heavily, transport to and from school can become problematic and schools will close. The best place to find out about the school closure policy is to click here which will take you to the Jeffco website.

Will I be affected by the altitude in Colorado?

Most people coming directly from sea level (i.e. Sydney) will suffer some minor effects of altitude on visiting Denver at 1659 metres but a couple of days acclimatization will soon see your body adapt. For more details on the affects of altitude click here. It's most likely a good idea to wait a week or so before visiting Mt. Evans at 4346 metres. Keep hydrated, you will need to drink a lot of water to keep hydrated at altitude (as a guide it is recommended to drink at least 3 litres of water a day if you are going above 3500 metres, that's a lot of water!!).

What will the weather be like in Colorado?

Trying to accurately forecast the weather is fairly difficult impossible, but the general climate can be predicted fairly well. Your stay in Denver will be from July through to early January, and as such you will get to experience 3 distinct seasons, summer, fall (autumn) and winter. There are 4 main geographical factors that influence the Denver climate. Firstly it is in the northern hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed (December is in winter and July is in summer.). Secondly it is located at relatively high altitude. Thirdly it is in the middle of very large continent not on the coast like Sydney. Fourthly it bordered on the west by high mountains. Lakewood has a humid continental climate with strong semi-arid influences. Lakewood's climate features snowy, cold winters and warm to hot summers, with great temperature differences between seasons and between day and night. Precipitation is concentrated in spring and summer months.

We have included 3 climate graphs (one each for Lakewood, Evergreen and Sydney) which will enable you to compare the different climates. Please note that each of the climate graphs have identical scales so it is easy to compare the climate data, however for obvious reasons the Sydney graph does not contain any snow data.
If you are interested in the current weather and short term forecasts for either Sydney or Lakewood just click on the digital clocks at the top of this page and you will be linked across to the relevant weather forecasts. If you want to see what it's like in "Lakewood" at the moment click on the picture to the left to see a webcam image looking towards the mountains on the western edge of Denver.

Will I have to keep up with my studies while I'm in the US?

A simple question with a simple answer.... YES!! The exchange is an educational exchange and as such both the American and Australian education systems require that you maintain certain minimum academic standards whilst on the exchange. The Jeffco school system is a little bit different to the NSW system you are familiar with and may initially seem fairly daunting but fortunately it is relatively easy to cope with by following a few simple steps.

  • Be prepared, lessons will start on your first day of school!

  • Participate in and contribute to all class activities!

  • Punctually attend all classes (roll is recorded in every class!)

  • Complete all homework and submit on time (no prizes for handing in late)

  • Complete and submit all assesment/assignment tasks on time.

  • Use the Campus Portal computer system to monitor your progress. You don't have to wait for end of semester reports, you can log in any time to see exactly how you are performing! (Your parents can do the same, so there is nowhere to hide!!)

Other aspects of the program


Becoming a host family

Volunteer to host visiting students from Lakewood, Colorado, USA

About the Committee

Get to know the volunteers behind the program

History of the exchange

Information about how the program started

Have questions? Contact us!

If you have questions about any of our exchanges, click on the program below of your choice.


Our sponsors and partners

We are generously supported by many organisations that have helped made our exchange programs possible

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