by: Molly Vidmar, High School Program Assistant
Local Coordinator Susan Twitchell attended the West Super Region Workshop in her own stomping grounds of Henderson, NV. The workshop was the embodiment of empowerment, one of CCI Greenheart’s key results. Local coordinators learned how to empower themselves, students and host families. Susan gained a deeper understanding of how important it is that we all work together for the common good students, explaining that the workshops taught her how to use best practices in order to get things done in a timely and orderly manner. She also learned about mediation skills, the Greenheart Club, marketing techniques and how to find host families. Reflecting on her time at the workshop, Susan says,
“Have you ever been someplace and knew without a doubt that you were exactly where you needed to be, surrounded by the people you needed to be with, doing and learning the very thing you needed to be doing and learning? That is exactly what this workshop was like for me!”
With her, Susan brought her exchange students to participate in a panel to provide the perspective of the student. There is no doubt that everyone was impressed by the mature and unique insight of each exchange student. Zhika from Kyrgyzstan told how she feels responsible for representing a country about which Americans know so little. Viktoriya from Russia explained how to dispel and breakdown stereotypes with grace, not resentment or rudeness when she encounters misconceptions about her country or people. Eduardo from Spain proved how the dynamics of a host family are the same as a natural family, and Gabi from Brazil offered advice on making friends when you first arrive. Interacting with exchange students made everyone remember why they were there and why they choose to be Local Coordinators.
Seeing her students on the panel, Susan says she was “happy & nervous & excited & proud all at the same time!” She was a bit shy and hesitant to be in the room when the students were asked about their LC, but it was clear to see that they all adore her. The students shared that Susan provides a safe space and that they can come to her for anything.
“I didn’t want my kids to feel that there was any pressure there to say good things about me, so I got out of their line of sight. But when Eduardo from Spain said something to the effect of, ‘My coordinator is my point of safety,’ well, that just brought tears to my eyes! It was proof positive that they know how important they are to me. It was very humbling.”
This is Susan’s first year coordinating for FLEX students and she is also currently a host mom to a FLEX student. She admits that it has been a growing experience for her, as there is extra paperwork and activities to complete, but that it is all worth it. She feels that it is a privilege to work with students who have completed a rigorous and competitive application process for the scholarship. On the FLEX program, Susan says,
“These are kids that are here to learn. They are here because they worked very hard to get here and because they have very worthy goals for their lives. What they learn here they then take back to their home communities, which is beneficial for their home country as a whole. I have come to love this program and despite any extra paperwork connected with this program, I will conquer it so I can associate with these good kids each upcoming year.”
As FLEX students are required to attend civic engagement activities, Susan took her FLEX students, Vika and Zhika, to a City Council meeting in Henderson, Nevada to see the democratic process in action.
“Vika and Zhika were a little embarrassed that I took pictures of them in the “big chairs” as I call them, but I want them to always remember that they might really sit in Big Chairs of their own someday, in their own communities, doing wonderful things for the people there.”
While Susan loves to take her students on excursions and trips, she also stresses the importance of simply going out for a soda with her students and talking about their day. She tries to show up to sports events, band concerts, choir concerts or plays that the kids are in from time to time so that they can see that things that are important to them are also important to her. On recruiting host families, Susan believes that we have a wonderful gift to share with families. She says,
“It’s like I have tried a wonderful dessert and it tastes so good to me that I want to share it with them. If they want to take a taste, they host!”
Susan is starting her fifth placing season with CCI Greenheart and has placed 25 students. Out of the four years that she has been an LC, she has been a host mom for three. Susan has brought the world to her by bringing exchange students to her community, however she admits that she got her first passport as an adult in order to travel to Argentina for the CCI Greenheart Conference. We are grateful that she did, as she will also travel to Madrid, Spain for the CCI Greenheart conference next month.
“I have learned so much about people, world culture, geography, mutual respect for the values and beliefs of others, communications skills, patience and a variety of things I haven’t even mentioned! My husband, Ward, doesn’t call this my job…he refers to it as ‘Susan’s labor of love!’ And for sure that is what this is for me…It is my happy place!”
Interested in becoming an LC and starting your own journey in exchange? Click here to learn more!