By Elyse Voyen, Greenheart Club Intern
The Greenheart Club is comprised of nearly 400 CCI Greenheart students who have contributed over 10,000 volunteer hours. Each year we recognize four outstanding Greenheart Club members and, as a thank you for their hard work, we invite them on our Eco-Weekend Trip to Chicago. This year we selected two members from our Grants Program and two from our Academic Year Program. All students who volunteered over 75 volunteer hours were invited to apply. We received many applications and were astounded by the compassion, commitment, and level of excellence embodied in so many of the Greenheart Club members. Thus, it is with tremendous pleasure that we introduce you to this years winners, Nino, Pauline, Songguo, and Lera.
Nino from Georgia: I am Nino Khurtsidze, a 17 (almost 18 ) year old girl from the Republic of Georgia. I am a member of the Greenheart Club and I am having an amazing exchange year in the little city of Burley, in the State of Idaho. My departure time is getting closer so I am trying to get ready to share all of my new experiences and knowledge with my Georgian friends, family, school and community members. My exchange year has been more than just another year of my life; I feel as though I’ve experienced an entire life in this short period of time. I’ve had such a wonderful year of volunteering with many memorable experiences. There is a saying in Georgia: “You will receive as much as you give” and I have found this to be true. I have volunteered almost every single day in America, without expecting anything in return, but now I see that by being a volunteer, my dreams have come true. I’ve always wished to see Chicago – the city from movies, from pictures, with huge skyscrapers… I am so glad to have this opportunity, and I am sure I will gain a lot of new experiences from this Eco-Weekend trip, not to mention the unforgettable memories. I also want to say to every reader of this blog, that the only way you can feel real happiness is by making others happy – to see their eye sparkling with pleasure. I have really lost myself in volunteering. At first I was only thinking about doing the required hours, but then I realized how much fun it was to help people, and by contributing to the community, I have learned a lot of new things that will help me within my future life. If we want to make the world a better place, we must start by changing ourselves, because it is the people that bind the world together.
Pauline from Germany: My name is Pauline Volkmar, I am 16 years old and an exchange student from Germany. I live with my parents and my younger brother in Nuremberg and decided early that I wanted to spend a year abroad to visit an American high school. Last year in August my dream came true and I started my ten months in Mount Sterling, Kentucky! In many ways, my high school exchange year was like in the movies. I played volleyball, became part of an awesome choir, went to football games, and experienced a great Homecoming with all my friends. I auditioned and was cast in my school’s musical! This is not the only reason why this year will be something I will never forget. I had the opportunity to effectively help our community and others by volunteering. I helped with local events for example at church and the Arts Center, but the thing I am most grateful for is that I got to go on a mission trip to Haiti. I will never forget what I learned there. The appreciation and love the people showed us for our work is something that will always stick with me. These experiences truly changed me as a person and I want to thank the CCI Greenheart program that showed me that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can help for there will always be someone that needs your help and attention.
Songguo from China: Hi! My name is Songguo Zeng. People call me Sonia. I’m a pine nut “made in” China and the reason I call myself pine nut is because that’s what my Chinese name means. I’m staying with a very lovely family in Houston, Texas. At the very beginning they brought me to different places to do volunteering. We do volunteering almost every week and we have a lot of conversations about volunteering. Last semester I started to get more involved in more volunteer events such as Kids Against Hunger, the children’s choir at church, and donating food. I learned a lot from the volunteer experiences in the United States and I finally understood why it is important. It’s hard to describe all my feeling about my American experience in few sentences, because it’s so amazing and rich!
Lera from Kazakhstan: Hi there! My name is Lera and I am an exchange student from Kazakhstan. So far, I’ve spent nine great months in the USA, and it was probably the most amazing time in my whole life. I met many wonderful people, gained valuable experiences, acquired new skills, and found my new passion – volunteering.Volunteering helped me in adapting to my new surroundings, understanding American culture, finding new friends, and spending my time productively. I like doing it because when I help people, I see how the world around me is changing in a better way. Besides, it is so much fun when you work in a group of people, who share the same goal as you do! I would advise everyone to try it, because there is no simpler way to make our world a better place than by volunteering!
These inspiring students will be visiting CCI Greenheart’s offices in Chicago for a celebration weekend May 1st-4th