Coordinating Lifelong Connections

by Jillian Sims; AYP Compliance and Operations Manager

Sue and Her Students after a Black Friday Shopping Spree

Sue and Her Students after a Black Friday Shopping Spree

Sue Clayton is one of CCI Greenheart’s most dynamic and highest placing Local Coordinators, placing 23 students just this year. In her 16 years with the organization, Sue has placed more than 200 students, receiving the ‘Platinum Award’ at the San Francisco 2013 AYP conference. She proudly displays this and many other awards on what she fondly calls her ‘duck’ wall in her home in Colorado. But above being a fantastic placer, Sue is involved with all of her students, creates fun and engaging events for them and their families and manages to be on top of her monitoring as well!

Sue's Wall of CCI Greenheart Awards

Sue’s Wall of CCI Greenheart Awards

But to begin at the beginning, Sue shares how she came to be with CCI Greenheart, why being an LC with heart is so crucial and the joys of working in cultural exchange for so many fun-filled years. It was years ago when Sue was at a party and a friend who had been working with CCI Greenheart was considering retiring. “I asked her to give me a call if she did, and soon after, she called. My kids and I had hosted several students in the past so I knew it was something I would enjoy.” It wasn’t long before Sue was on board. “She spoke warmly about her experiences with the agency,” she says. From there, Sue fell right into the whole experience. Here are a few tips for other LCs looking to follow in her successful footsteps:


       “I have always sent my kids traveling abroad in high school. The moment came when my daughter studied in Ecuador and called me in tears. She had typhoid and was in a great deal of pain. Thankfully her host mother was there for her. She came and sat on the edge of the bed, rubbed her legs that hurt so much and talked to her passing the time. When we met I could hardly thank her enough or hold back the tears because she really was a mom to her while I was so far away! As an LC you need to be empathetic.”

 ‘The Match’ and Being Authentic and Fun:

      “Most important is ‘The Match’ between students and hosts. Then plan a calendar of fun and inviting activities where the kids, and sometimes their families, can party and see you at your best and even your silliest- become real!”

The Placing Approach:

       “I place kids ONE AT A TIME, and each one plays an important role in our group.”

 Thanksgiving party

               Seeing Sue’s involvement with her students and families, all of this comes into play. Whether she is planning a Black Friday shopping spree with her students or a Thanksgiving talent show for her students and host families, Sue seems to emphasize fun and valuing connections and individuals.  “…the turnout was great at our Thanksgiving talent show, I cooked enough turkeys, everyone brought enough food, and we danced and acted silly having a very successful event with 60+ people there.” She laughs, recalling a common conversation she has with her students every year: “I always laugh when talking to my students about following our conditions of participation. The warning, ‘Beware, you don’t want to end up living with “Grandma” always makes us laugh!’ At our Thanksgiving party two of my girls introduced their hosts to the crowd, then turned to me to introduce their ‘Grandma!’”

             Sue also values incorporating Greenheart volunteering into her student’s year. She shared a picture of on of her students volunteering at a soup kitchen, saying “This picture of Dennis from Taiwan, says so much about how these kids grow, change and give for others. Just the look on his face says he is beginning to realize that there are those less fortunate than him. I think the picture tells so much about cultural exchange!!!”volunteering dennis


On top of all of this, Sue leads an exciting life on her own and with her family. Perhaps its not to big of a surprise to learn of her personal life mantra: 

    “I love to FISH! I have a belly boat that I fly fish from, catching trout in the high mountain lakes. Almost every summer I go to an inclusive resort in Alaska to fish for salmon, halibut and anything else that grabs my hook. I revel in the success of my three children and adore my three grand kids. My perennial garden is so beautiful, I’m close to my running road to the city reservoirs, and love my gym and the social connections I have there. My motto is on my bulletin board, “Never, never, never stop moving!”

It’s fair to say that everyone can learn a little something from Sue’s approach, not just regarding being an LC, but maybe even life!

We are so glad to have her on our team and working with our student’s and families.

Sue and Her family!

Sue and Her family!

Interested in becoming an LC yourself? Click here to learn more!