By Jillian Sims, AYP Compliance and Operations Manager
Nancy is a seasoned LC and recent AC from Iowa. She has been a Grant LC for 10 years and an LC for CCI Greenheart for 3 years. Including summer IHP students, she has coordinated for over 80 students, with over 30 of them have been FLEX and YES students. Because of her exemplary work as an LC and her commitment to volunteering (including a project in the works for this weekend’s Greenheart Day of Service), we asked her a few questions about her experience as an LC and what advice she can offer other LCs.
Why did you decide to become a Local Coordinator with CCI Greenheart?
I became a LC 10 years ago when my children were 16, 13 and 9. I have always loved to travel (I have been to 40 countries to date) and I wanted to expose my children to different cultures. We had traveled some as a family and student exchange became an extension of those experiences. I had also read a little book called “The Prayer Of Jabez”.
In the book the prayer this man prayed was, “Please expand my territory that I may do good and not harm” (paraphrase). That prayer was answered in my life in a big way! Finally, it occurred to me that if my children ever decided to study abroad I would hope that someone safe was watching out for them on the other side of the world. I decided I could be that safe person on this side of the world for these students.
What is your favorite memory with your students as an LC? Favorite experience volunteering with them?
I have coordinated for over 60 AYP students so I have a lot of memories! One that jumps out is the time we volunteered at a Horse Ranch. One of my girls (a FLEX student from Moldova) had never ridden a horse and was terrified of them. So we first helped rake the inner area where the horses spent most of their time. In doing so Sandra was able to be near the horses without actually fearing that she was at risk in any way. We worked all morning and Sandra was able to see how the other students enjoyed petting the horses, and how calm they were. So by the end of the day Sandra rode a horse (I led her around a riding arena). It was life changing for her! At the end of the year she thanked me profusely for helping her get over her fear of horses. I was grateful I could be part of that process for her.
What moment made you realize the larger impact of what you’re doing as an LC and as a volunteer ?
Several years ago my husband and I traveled to Prague, Czech Rep. I had a former student from Belarus (they used to be part of the FLEX countries, but their government pulled out of the program in 2007) who traveled 24 hours one way by bus to spend 4 days with us (It’s very hard for Americans to enter Belarus and this was the only way she could see us). While spending time with her she shared her memories and how her time in the US had completely changed her life. This was just amazing to me and was the first time I realized the impact we were having on students like Hanna. We are still in touch and she is still so grateful!
What is your favorite hobby, outside of being a volunteer?
My favorite hobby now is visiting my children and grandchildren! My oldest daughter and her husband and two children live in Orlando, Florida and they both work for Disney. My son is now in Seminary in Denver, Colorado, and my youngest daughter goes to college in St Paul, Minnesota, and plays basketball there. So my husband and I spend as much time as we can traveling to see all of them! When I first started as an LC, I considered student exchange to be my favorite hobby. Through the years working with the students has become much bigger than just a hobby for me.
What have you learned/what is a tip for other LCs?
I have so many tips to share with new LCs. The first would be that there are people out there that WANT to host. This is not like sales! So get comfortable talking about your students and your experiences. If the person is interested, they will show you that. Secondly, I have realized that it is my “job” to ask. I fully accept a “No” or a “Not Now” and I try to give people permission to have those answers. But if I don’t ask, that person may miss an incredible opportunity, so I ask.
How do you find and arrange activities for your students –particularly the upcoming Greenheart Day of Service project? What will it entail for the students? How many will participate?
Originally I planned my volunteer (and other enhancement activities) around activities I was already going to be doing. My husband and I taught our children to be service oriented, so when we had a service project planned I would bring my students along as well (My daughter use to ride at the horse ranch that I mentioned earlier). As time has gone on I have fine tuned my events to the things that worked that best. For instance, in October we will be joining the Animal Rescue League at the Great Iowa Pet Expo (this is Nancy’s Greenheart Day of Service project). The students will learn a lot about taking care of abandoned and homeless animals and will have fun demonstrating their leadership while they talk to the public about their home countries.
Then in December my church has a beautiful event called “The Perfect Gift”. In one of the display rooms there are many Christmas trees, all decorated differently. I will have a Christmas party on the day they are setting up the trees and my students will spend 2 hours helping to set them up. Its a fun activity and one that is time intensive. My students will have a great time, interact with American’s and also be very helpful. I do this activity almost every year. This year I am combining most of my activities with 2 other LC’s in my area. So we will have 9 out of 10 students participating in the October event. We make it fun by spending that night in a local hotel (chaperoned, of course).
We certainly can’t wait to see the pictures and hear about how this event went! At CCI Greenheart, we are proud to have such amazing Local Coordinators and are inspired by their work and dedication to cultural exchange. Interested in becoming an LC and starting your own journey in exchange? Click here to learn more!