By Jillian Sims, AYP Compliance and Operations Manager
Sarah Leyva is still a relatively new to student exchange, but you would think her a seasoned veteran after this placement season. Already hosting Independent Homestay (IHP) student, Martina from Italy, this summer, she decided to add a full Academic Year Program (AYP) student, Jakub from Czech Republic, to her family’s ranks. And while Sarah was forming new bonds with students as a host parent, she certainly wasn’t done with furthering the cause of cultural exchange. She was busy placing four AYP and two IHP students. Of course, all of this was done in addition to a busy life of work, family, and even fitness (one of Sara’s other passions).
But besides the intrinsic rewards of being a host and local coordinator, it was recently that Sarah had the great luck and honor to be selected as the winner of the drawing for the upcoming CCI Greenheart Annual Incentive Conference in Madrid, Spain.
“I have never won anything in my life. I was shocked.” She describes the moment she got the call from her Regional Manager to tell her the news while she was out shopping for groceries. ” I was in disbelief and actually screamed and cried in the organic veggie aisle.”
Sarah is eager to learn more about a country that some of her students call ‘home’ and is already making plans for her upcoming trip; getting her first passport, and working on her Spanish. But there is one way that this trip is quite special and will bring her closer to her students and make her an even better Local Coordinator in the future.
The trip to Madrid will be Sarah’s first time abroad. While she is already empathetic to her student’s experience of traveling to a foreign place, this trip will surely help to bridge the gap of understanding such a singular experience of traveling to an unknown place. Sara speaks about her favorite moments with her students, which is always meeting them for the first time. She shares, “I’m both excited & nervous at the same time… Excited to meet a student that has come thousands of miles from another country that is willing to learn and share their culture as well as embrace and learn ours. And I’m nervous because I can’t even imagine how difficult it could be to be able to trust someone they’ve never met to provide them with a family to stay with while their in the US for a year , it is an absolute great privilege and an honor to be able to be a part of that .”
Though Sarah still considers herself a novice, it is clear she understands some of the most key elements to being successful. “You have to be passionate about the program,” she says. “It has to come from your heart. You are the program, it has to be genuine.”
With Sarah, there is no doubt that is the case. She is so happy to be a part of CCI Greenheart and to be able t work with the students and people who help to make the program possible. Speaking of her Regional Manager who introduced her to the idea of being an LC, Sarah says ‘I am truly blessed to have met Kendra, for the simple fact that if I hadn’t, I may have never known about this life changing program. Myself as well as my kids have fallen completely in love with this program, and are looking forward to being a part of it for many years to come.”
Interested in your own life changing experience with cultural exchange and the opportunity to attend international conferences? Click here to learn about becoming an Local Coordinator, or here to learn about hosting a student of your own!