by Jillian Sims, AYP Program Assistant
Pat and his wife, Lori, are proud host parents with a lot of experience under their belts. Pat started hosting back in the 1990s with another organization but then, when acting as superintendent at a local school, he found out about CCI Greenheart and not only continued hosting, he stepped up to the opportunity of becoming a Local Coordinator! Hosting three students so far under CCI Greenheart, Pat and his wife have learned a few things along the way, as well as experienced the joy and challenges of opening up their family to the world.
One of the biggest observations he has made from hosting, is the sheer eagerness of students who dream of life in America and what we take for granted.
As Americans, we can complain about life in general then we see thousands of people wanting to come here. It is a humbling experience. Then you meet these kids and realize that we are talking with our mouths full.
When out in the community and with his exchange student, friends and community members will remark on the great experience he and his family seem to be having. “You oughta try it!” Pat urges.
For those families who might be on the fence about hosting the first time, Pat encourages them to give it a try. Not just because it is a wonderful program, but because he is confident of CCI Greenheart and their relationship with our overseas partner relationships and the quality of our students. “Take a leap of faith and count on CCI Greenheart and partner organizations that have done an excellent job of bringing the kids that are qualified [for the program].”
It also doesn’t matter where you live. Rural as some towns may be, it has ample opportunity for students to get involved in school activities, in fact, often having a greater chance than in more populated districts. Pat is quick to make sure that his students have a full experience in his home state of Oklahoma.
He also recommends that host parents take the time to write down all of their expectations for the student and family routines in a clear manner and share them with their student immediately. He recommends too, that after the first day or so of the students arrival, after they have had a chance to check in with their natural family, to suspend contact for about a week.
Of course, there are always challenges in relationships and he and his wife have been there for students who have gone through life changes, as they inevitably do on a program like this. “Be ready for the full life experience” Pat says, thinking of the myriad of memories he has throughout the years – both the bittersweet and proud moments. One of his students lost her grandparent while she was here, but Pat and his wife were there to offer much needed comfort. “We will never forget holding our little girl when her grandmother died” Pat recalls. It was times like these where he was also so impressed by their commitment to their own experience here as teenagers on an academic exchange program.
You can tell from speaking to him that each of his students have left a mark with him and he and his family truly take them in as one of their own. The same student who lost her grandmother adjusted to life on their farm and embraced some animal husbandry hobbies, such as showing livestock in state championships and being there to deliver some baby goats. He speaks with pride about how she is now a translator, but that she first was a vet assistant later in her home country.
His Brazilian student from this year seemed to enjoy the country life too, even being featured in a local calendar photo contest, pictured practice his roping skills against an Oklahoman sunset. At the end of his five month program, the student confessed to Pat that he felt like he was “born in the wrong country.” Oklahoma was just the place to be for him!
Though, it’s clear that the Howell family probably had something to do with that.
Are you willing to share your life to change another?
Learn more about hosting an exchange student with CCI Greenheart.