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Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; The FREEDOM Support Act/Future Leaders Exchange (FSA/FLEX) Program: Host Family and School Placement

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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NOTICE:

Request for Proposals.

SUMMARY:

The Youth Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces an open competition for the placement component of the FREEDOM Support Act/Future Leaders Exchange (FSA/FLEX) program. Public and private non-profit organizations meeting the provisions described in IRS regulation 26 CFR 1.501(c) may submit proposals to recruit and select host families and schools for high school students between the ages of 15 and 17 from the New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union. In addition to identifying schools and screening, selecting, and orienting families, organizations will be responsible for: Orienting students at the local level; providing support services for students; arranging enhancement activities that reinforce program goals; monitoring students during their stay in the U.S.; providing re-entry training; and assessing student performance and progress. The award of grants and the number of students who will participate is subject to the availability of funding in fiscal year 2001.

Program Information Overview

Background

Academic year 2001/2002 will be the ninth year of the FSA/FLEX program, which now includes over 8,000 alumni. This inbound, academic year component of the NIS Secondary School Initiative was originally authorized under the FREEDOM Support Act of 1992 and is funded by annual allocations from the Foreign Operations and State Department appropriations. The goals of the program are to promote mutual understanding and foster a relationship between the people of the NIS and the U.S.; assist the successor generation of the NIS to develop the qualities it will need to lead in the transformation of those countries in the 21st century; and to promote democratic values and civic responsibility by giving NIS youth the opportunity to live in American society and participate in focused activities for an academic year.

Objectives

  • To place approximately 1,000 pre-selected high school students from the NIS in qualified, well-motivated host families and welcoming schools.
  • To expose program participants to American culture and democracy through homestay experiences and enhancement activities that will enable them to attain a broad view of the society and culture of the U.S.
  • To encourage FSA/FLEX program participants to share their culture, lifestyle and traditions with U.S. citizens.

Through participation in the FLEX program, students should:

1. Acquire an understanding of important elements of a civil society. This includes concepts such as volunteerism, the idea that American citizens can and do act at the grassroots level to deal with societal problems, and an awareness of and respect for the rule of law.

2. Acquire an understanding of a free market economy and private enterprise. This includes awareness of privatization and an appreciation of the role of the entrepreneur in economic growth.

3. Develop an appreciation for American culture.

4. Interact with Americans and generate enduring ties.

5. Teach Americans about the cultures of their home countries.

6. Gain leadership capacity that will enable them to initiate and support Start Printed Page 57223activities in their home countries that focus on development and community service in their role as FLEX alumni.

Other Components

Two organizations operating as a consortium have been awarded grants to perform the following functions: recruitment and selection of students; targeting recruitment for students with disabilities; assistance in documentation and preparation of IAP-66 forms; preparation of cross-cultural materials; pre-departure orientation; international travel from home to host community and return; facilitation of ongoing communication between the natural parents and placement organization, as needed; maintenance of a student database and provision of data to the Department of State; and ongoing follow-up with alumni after their return to the NIS. Additionally, a separate grant will be awarded for the conduct of a one-week mid-year civic education program in Washington, D.C., for a select number of students who successfully compete for the Washington program. Most of the students with disabilities, as well as a select number of additional students who are identified as needing English language enhancement before entering their host communities, will attend a Language and Cultural Enhancement (LCE) program in July 2001, which will be conducted under a grant awarded exclusively for that purpose. The announcements of the competitions for these grants will be published separately.

Guidelines

Organizations chosen under this competition are responsible for the following:

(1) Recruitment, screening, selection, and NIS-specific orientation of host families;

(2) School enrollment;

(3) Local orientation for participants;

(4) Placement of a small number of students with disabilities;

(5) Ensuring that all students identified for the pre-academic-year LCE program have their permanent year-long placement by the time they arrive at the LCE program;

(6) Specialized training of local staff and volunteers to work with NIS students;

(7) Preparation and dissemination of materials to students pertaining to the respective placement organization;

(8) Dispersal of program-specific information, such as alumni activity reports and School Administrator handbooks, to respective persons involved with the program (e.g., host families, school administrators, local coordinators);

(9) Program-related enhancement activities;

(10) Troubleshooting;

(11) Communication with the organizations conducting other program components, when appropriate;

(12) Evaluation of the students' performance;

(13) Quarterly evaluation of the organization's success in achieving program goals;

(14) Re-entry training to prepare students for readjustment to their home environments.

Applicants may request a grant for the placement of at least 20 students. There is no ceiling on the number of students who may be placed by one organization. It is anticipated that 15-20 grants will be awarded for this component of the FLEX program. Placements will be distributed throughout the U.S. Students may be clustered in one or more regions or dispersed. Applicants must demonstrate that training of local staff ensures their competence in providing NIS-specific orientation programs, appropriate enhancement activities, and quality supervision and counseling of students from the NIS. Please refer to the Solicitation Package, available on request from the address listed below, for details on essential program elements, permissible costs, and criteria used to select students.

Grants should begin at the point that the complete applications on selected finalists are delivered to the placement organizations, no later than March 15, 2001. Most participants arrive in their host communities during the month of August and remain for 10 or 11 months until their departure during the period mid-May to late June 2002.

Administration of the program must be in compliance with reporting and withholding regulations for federal, state, and local taxes are applicable. Recipient organizations should demonstrate tax regulation adherence in the proposal narrative and budget.

Applicants should submit the health and accident insurance plans they intend to use for students on this program. If use of a private plan is proposed, the State Department will compare that plan with the Bureau plan and make a determination of which will be applicable.

Participants will travel on J-1 visas issued by the State Department using a government program number. Organizations must comply with J-1 visa regulations in carrying out their responsibilities under the FLEX program. Please refer to Solicitation Package for further information.

Budget Guidelines

Grants awarded to eligible organizations with less than four years of experience in conducting international exchange programs will be limited to $60,000.

Applicants must submit a comprehensive budget for the entire program. Per capita costs should not exceed $5,175. There must be a summary budget as well as breakdowns reflecting both administrative and program budgets.

Applicants may provide separate sub-budgets for each program component, phase, location, or activity to provide clarification. Allowable costs for the program include the following:

(1) A monthly stipend and a one-time incidentals allowance for participants, as established by the Department of State;

(2) Costs associated with student enhancement activities and orientations;

(3) Health and accident insurance.

Please refer to the Solicitation Package for complete budget guidelines and formatting instructions.

Announcement Title and Number: All correspondence with the Bureau concerning this RFP should reference the above title and number ECA/PE/C/PY-01-18.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

The Office of Youth Programs, ECA/PE/C/PY, Room 568, U.S. Department of State, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547, tel. (202) 619-6299, and fax (202) 619-5311, e-mail amussman@pd.state.gov to request a Solicitation Package. The Solicitation Package contains detailed award criteria, required application forms, specific budget instructions, and standard guidelines for proposal preparation. Please specify Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Program Officer Anna Mussman on all other inquiries and correspondence.

Please read the complete Federal Register announcement before sending inquiries or submitting proposals. Once the RFP deadline has passed, Bureau staff may not discuss this competition with applicants until the proposal review process has been completed.

To Download a Solicitation Package via Internet: The entire Solicitation Package may be downloaded from the Bureau's website at http://exchanges.state.gov/​education/​rfps. Please read all information before downloading.

Deadline for Proposals

All proposal copies must be received at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs by 5 p.m. Washington, Start Printed Page 57224DC time on Monday, November 13. Faxed documents will not be accepted at any time. Documents postmarked the due date but received on a later date will not be accepted. Each applicant must ensure that the proposals are received by the above deadline.

Applicants must follow all instructions in the Solicitation Package. The original and 8 copies of the application should be sent to: U.S. Department of State, SA-44, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ref.: ECA/PE/C/PY-01-18, Program Management, ECA/EX/PM, Room 336, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547.

Diversity, Freedom and Democracy Guidelines

Pursuant to the Bureau's authorizing legislation, programs must maintain a non-political character and should be balanced and representative of the diversity of American political, social, and cultural life. “Diversity” should be interpreted in the broadest sense and encompass differences including, but not limited to ethnicity, race, gender, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, and physical challenges. Applicants are strongly encouraged to adhere to the advancement of this principle both in program administration and in program content. Please refer to the review criteria under the ‘Support for Diversity’ section for specific suggestions on incorporating diversity into the total proposal. Public Law 104-319 provides that “in carrying out programs of educational and cultural exchange in countries whose people do not fully enjoy freedom and democracy,” the Bureau “shall take appropriate steps to provide opportunities for participation in such programs to human rights and democracy leaders of such countries.” Proposals should reflect advancement of this goal in their program contents, to the full extent deemed feasible.

Review Process

The Bureau will acknowledge receipt of all proposals and will review them for technical eligibility. Proposals will be deemed ineligible if they do not fully adhere to the guidelines stated herein and in the Solicitation Package. All eligible proposals will be reviewed by the program office, as well as the State Department Geographic Area Office and Public Diplomacy section at the U.S. embassy overseas, where appropriate. Eligible proposals will be forwarded to panels of Bureau officers for advisory review. Proposals may also be reviewed by the Office of the Legal Adviser or by other Department elements. Final funding decisions are at the discretion of the Department of State's Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Final technical authority for assistance awards (grants or cooperative agreements) resides with the Bureau's Grants Officer.

Review Criteria

Technically eligible applications will be competitively reviewed according to the criteria stated below. These criteria are not rank ordered and all carry equal weight in the proposal evaluation:

1. Quality of the program idea: Proposals should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the Bureau's mission.

2. Program planning: Detailed agenda and relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity. Agenda and plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above.

3. Ability to achieve program objectives: Objectives should be reasonable, feasible, and flexible. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the institution will meet the program's objectives and plan.

4. Multiplier effect/impact: Proposed programs should strengthen long-term mutual understanding, including maximum sharing of information and establishment of long-term institutional and individual linkages.

5. Support of Diversity: Proposals should demonstrate substantive support of the Bureau's policy on diversity. Achievable and relevant features should be cited in both program administration (selection of participants, program venue and program evaluation) and program content (orientation and wrap-up sessions, program meetings, resource materials and follow-up activities).

6. Institutional Capacity: Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the program or project's goals.

7. Institution's Record/Ability: Proposals should demonstrate an institutional record of successful exchange programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past Bureau grants as determined by Bureau Grant Staff. The Bureau will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.

8. Project Evaluation: Proposals should include a plan to evaluate the activity's success, both as the activities unfold and at the end of the program. A draft survey questionnaire or other technique plus description of a methodology to use to link outcomes to original project objectives are recommended. Successful applicants will be expected to submit quarterly reports, which should be included as an inherent component of the work plan.

9. Cost-effectiveness/cost sharing: The overhead and administrative components of the proposal, including salaries and honoraria, should be kept as low as possible. All other items should be necessary and appropriate. Proposals should maximize cost-sharing through other private sector support as well as institutional direct funding contributions.

Authority

Overall grant making authority for this program is contained in the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87-256, as amended, also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act. The purpose of the Act is “to enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries * * *; to strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations * * and thus to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.” The funding authority for the program above is provided through legislation pertaining to the Department of State and FREEDOM Support Act appropriations.

Notice

The terms and conditions published in this RFP are binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts published language will not be binding. Issuance of the RFP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program and the availability of funds. Awards made will be subject to periodic reporting and evaluation requirements.

Notification

Final awards cannot be made until funds have been appropriated by Congress, allocated and committed through internal Bureau procedures.

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Dated: September 15, 2000.

Helena Kane Finn,

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

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[FR Doc. 00-24284 Filed 9-20-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4710-05-P