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LC Spotlight on: Deborah Cortese!

April 17, 2014

by Jillian Sims; AYP Compliance and Operations Manager

Deborah and one of her students from Japan

Deborah and one of her students from Japan

Meet Deborah Cortese – LC in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

Deborah has been a CCI Greenheart LC for almost 8 years and has worked with as many as 17 students in one year. That’s a busy Local Coordinator! We asked her a few questions about here experiences over the years.

What made you decide to become an LC?

I decided to become an LC after hosting our first girl from Thailand! I used to help the LC with all of the parties and she was the one that told me, you should do this! You would be great!

Over the years, what has been the funniest memory you have had with your students?

The most funny thing that I can think of was our little girl from Thailand did not know that the toilet paper rolls could come off of the holder to put another roll on. She had taken a roll of toilet paper and had carefully rolled the other paper from another roll onto the existing toilet paper roll!

What impact have you seen in the world as a result of being an LC?

I think that the biggest impact that I have seen is having given students the chance to live in the US and also to see them come back to the US to go to college. I have one boy from Bangladesh that came back and he is paying for his own college. He works in a small store that is connected to a gas station to make money. He is very involved with the college and so he was hired by the head of the engineering department to help him with research! This kiddo is on the go all of the time and he strives to have a better life here in the US!!  It is amazing to me to see his drive and ambition!! I think about the impact in his life that the YES program has made in having him be a part of my students!!

Deborah poses with another one of her Japanese students

Deborah poses with another one of her Japanese students

What do you do in your spare time?

Mostly sleep!! I am constantly looking for new host families! You get a lot of no’s but you just keep plugging away!! I work full time as a Physician Assistant in a very busy Occupational Medicine group! I also work part time on weekends in an Urgent Care Center!

What advice do you have to give to other LCs?

  • Don’t give up! Keep talking to people!! I speak with everyone that I come into contact!!
  • It is a numbers game!! Put yourself out there and don’t prejudge
  • Have fun with your students!

Interested in being an LC yourself? Click here to find out more!



“Volunteering was one of the best ideas I ever had”

April 16, 2014

By Oana Gherman, Career Advancement Program Participant from Romania

Oana is participating in CCI Greenheart’s Career Advancement Program where she is a trainee at Westchester Country Club in New York. She recently started volunteering in the United States and wants to encourage other participants to do the same!

I want to tell all the students, interns or trainees out there that volunteering was one of the best ideas that I ever had. It’s the perfect way to meet new people and interact with different cultures and traditions. I loved the entire time I spent volunteering and my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. I hope that at some point in my future I will be able and prepared to conduct my own volunteering project. The project that I participated in is actually an annual project that has been successfully conducted for the past 25 years.

We collected winter coats throughout a period of 3-4 months, and throughout that time, we had volunteering sessions where these coats were sorted and prepared for delivery to various charity or non-profit organizations that have people in need of them.

I believe that everybody should volunteer at least once in their life because this is the best way to learn about what is happening in the world and how some peoples actions can greatly influence other peoples lives. At the same time, volunteering is fun!

I hope to participate in another volunteer project very soon. I feel better knowing that I can give something back or help someone.

Oana blog photo

Unforgettable Experience in Hawaii!

April 15, 2014

By Sofie from Norway, 2013-2014 AYP Participant

Group Photo

My name Sofie, I’m 17 years old, from Norway and currently live in Wichita, Kansas. Last week I went on an unforgettable trip to the Island of Oahu, Hawaii with CCI Greenheart! My self and 19 other exchange students from all over the world (plus two awesome chaperones!!) lived on Camp Mokule’ia, on Ohau’s north shore, roughly one hour away from Honolulu.

One of my favorite things about the trip was that we lived pretty far away from all the tourism in Hawaii. All 22 of us lived in a pretty small cabin right by the beach with four bedrooms, two toilets and two showers. You could say it got pretty crowded in there and there were some fighting over showers at times, haha. However, living so close with each other made the whole group so close and we all became really good friends, really fast! It really wouldn’t be the same if we lived in a hotel or even just in a place packed with tourists.

Another thing I really loved about living at Camp Mokule’ia was that we got to feel that real spirit of Hawaii and also meet native Hawaiians (we also went other places with few tourists and more locals) which I personally thought was very cool and interesting. We learned several new words and their meanings and how Hawaiians are very concerned about the environment and also in touch with their “spiritual side”. Hawaiians are also very welcoming, cool and laidback, which I think is great!IMG_2769

We had 5 whole days on Hawaii and they flew by because they were jammed packed with activities and trips around almost the whole island of Oahu. Some of these activities included: Snorkeling, surfing, volunteering (trust me, this is so much fun), hiking, beach-time, free time at the camp, greenheart workshops, catamaran cruise and more! We were literally DEAD when we crawled into bed every night (which weren’t particularly comfortable, I might add, haha).

To finish of my blog I want to talk a little about volunteering and the greenheart workshops! Honestly, I was a little skeptical when I saw that we were going to volunteer, I had never really volunteered before this trip. However, it really took me by surprise how much fun it was! It felt so rewarding to see the before and after of what we did and just to know you really helped someone or something! That feeling was really awesome, and volunteering is something I would love to continue to do in my host community and when I come back to Norway!

Every night we would have these “Greenheart workshops”, were we would discuss and reflect on our day, go over high and low points of the day, play some games and discuss different and important subjects. These workshops made it easier for us to get to know each other and made us really close, super fast! We talked about huge world problems like war, equality etc., cultural differences and more! It really opened my eyes and really made me think.

Sofie in Flower DressTo end my very long blog entry I need to say that this was really fun and an experience of a lifetime! Something I’ll never forget! I can truly say that I have learned so many new things about Hawaii, greenheart and even myself and just life in general. I´ve also made friends for life, both exchange students and our leaders Stephanie and Andrea! You guys are seriously awesome, thank you so much. We are in a circle that never ends!


Watch Sofie’s video she made of the trip:

Interested in joining us on a Greenheart Trip?  For more information check here.

Bonding over Trash

April 14, 2014
photo 2 (2)

By Elyse Voyen, Greenheart Club Intern

CCI Greenheart Local Coordinator Lindsay Zimmerman and Regional Director Lori Tibbett with a group of four CCI Greenheart exchange students (Rina, Fenna, Giulia, and Gonzalo), one outbound american exchange student (Carson), one friend and two host sisters, volunteered at the American River Parkway in Sacramento, California on April 5th clearing trash along the river and trails.

Lori Tibbett remembers the sentiments of her group of volunteers:

“Fenna from Germany said ‘it is so beautiful here, I didn’t know that this was here in the middle of the city of Sacramento.’”

“Gonzalo from Spain said ‘I like to talk to everyone, it was fun to talk to the girl who is going to Spain on an exchange.’”

“All of them said it felt good to do something for others, volunteering was a good feeling!”

CCI Greenheart would like to thank Lori Tibbett, Lindsay Zimmerman and their group of volunteers for working so hard to make our planet a cleaner and happier place!

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Our (Green)Heart Will Go On

April 11, 2014

By: Maggie Flynn, Work and Travel Program Assistant

As the Work and Travel Department gets ready for the Summer 2014 season, the latest Job Fairs were an essential part to recruiting top-notch participants. This past week saw multiple Job Fairs taking place all over China. CCI Greenheart staff members, Haldis Toppen and Joe Burns, along with several U.S. employers, traveled to various cities around China- interviewing more than 250 participants! According to Joe, this year’s Job Fair participants were very impressive and some of the best he’s seen yet. But that’s not the only reason the trip was a success…

Haldis_China Blog post

While in China, CCI Greenheart staff and American employers were luckily able to team up with participants to put on a Greenheart Project.  Some Work and Travel alumni even stopped by! They visited Cuncaochunhui Home for the Aged, an organization that’s changing the way senior citizens are taken care of in China. It is located in a community in Beijing where more than 5,000 people over the age of 60 are living. This home ensures that even those that only come for the day are taken care of through meal delivery, escorted hospital visits, and counseling services. The Greenheart Project group was able to lend their time and ears to these aging citizens at the home and have some fun too.  Upon request, Haldis even graced the home with a beautiful rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Because really, who doesn’t love that Celine Dion power ballad?

Greenheart Projects are meant to not only be entertaining, but also a place to demonstrate the volunteer spirit that we hope to spread to all corners of the globe. Volunteering is not a common activity in other countries, but it’s something that truly benefits everyone involved. We hope that future participants will take this idea back to their home country and show how their (Green)heart goes on.

To learn more about Cuncaochunhui Home for the Aged and what it’s doing for senior citizens of Beijing, check out this great article from Xinhua News.

French Students Get a Taste for Snow Tubing and American High School

April 11, 2014

From February 22nd through March 4th 20 French students cozied into 20 host family homes around the Portland, Maine area. The group participated in classroom visits at a local school, a trip to Boston, snow tubing, and a Greenheart Volunteer activity, as part of a Taste of American High School program. Their stay was short but sweet, and according to local coordinator Kathy Hansen they were “the perfect group.” CCI Greenheart interviewed one host family and one French student from the group to get a closer look at the experience.


The whole group Snow Tubing!

First we will introduce you to Nathan, a 14 year old French boy who loves to play rugby. This was Nathan’s first trip to the United States, and he chose to travel to Maine with his peers because he wanted to discover American life, school, and landscapes. We asked Nathan to describe a typical day during his homestay in Maine. He wrote that he woke up at 6 AM every day during the week and studied English, science, social studies, and attended a gym class. In the afternoons during the week Nathan engaged in activities with the group or hung out with his host family. Nathan’s favorite part of the homestay program  was when he got to snowboard with his host family one weekend. Nathan truly enjoyed all the activities with his host family, and he didn’t mention a single challenge! In fact, Nathan would love to come back and stay with his host family again as he wrote that they could not have been more kind to him.


Nathan snow tubing!

Nathan did write down a few notable things about the United States. First, he noted that all American students have laptops to study. Second, he wrote that everything is bigger in America, the food portions, the cars, and the malls. It’s quite funny because Nathan’s host family observed that Nathan never snacked between meals and always took very small portions in order to be sure he could clear his plate. Nathan’s best bit of advice for anyone thinking of traveling on a group homestay program with CCI Greenheart is to be yourself, be open to trying new things, and make the most of your time with your American host family.

Nathan was hosted by the Ginter family, made up of two parents Joleen and Jamie, a daughter Emily, and a son Cameron. This was the Ginter family’s first time hosting, and they chose to host at the very last minute once they realized how great of an experience it could be! The Ginters wrote that their favorite memory was two days into the trip when Nathan finally became comfortable in the house. At that point he was able to settle in, play with the Ginter kids, goof off, and it felt like he was truly a part of the family.



Nathan goofing off

Hosting a foreign exchange student helped the Ginters learn about French culture without having to ever leave their home. The Ginter family wrote that the experience has changed their view of other cultures in that they came to realize that we are all very similar in many ways, yet the differences between cultures allows us to open our eyes a little bit to maybe change our own ways. The Ginters would definitely recommend hosting a student with CCI Greenheart to any potential families out there! They applauded Judy Farwell and Kathy Hansen as the coordinators for the group and are so very thankful for the wonderful experience!


If you are interested in hosting a CCI Exchange student please visit our Hosting Webpage to learn more.



A Happy Dance for Hosting

April 9, 2014

CCI Greenheart


Gyorgy and host sister, Bridget at Texas Raiders game

Gyorgy and host sister, Bridget, at Texas Red Raiders game

For one family in Texas, this past fall was the perfect time to waltz into a dream they had always had: to host a student. The stars had aligned and mom, Susan, and youngest daughter, Bridget, picked their student and waited for the fun to begin.

Susan shares her family’s hosting experience with Gyorgy, from Hungary:

“I am a single mom with two daughters. My oldest is 24 and starting her own family 1500 miles away. My youngest is Bridget, who will be 18 next month and a senior in high school. Last July 30, a local news station did a story about foreign exchange students and I knew I had to look into it. I had always wanted to host but was worried about the demands of another teenager in the house. I felt like if we were going to, it needed to be now while I still had Bridget at home. Lindy (her family’s Local Coordinator) assured me that a two parent family wasn’t a requirement and that if I could provide a bed and 3 meals a day, we would be fine.

Fast forward to today, I don’t know why I waited so long! Gyorgy is an amazing young man that has brought so much to our lives. He has become the brother Bridget never had.

Gyorgy displays his dancing skills in his local community

Gyorgy displays his dancing skills in his local community

She has learned that just because someone is from another part of the world doesn’t make them all that different. We selected Gyorgy in part due to his interest in dance. Bridget dances too, so we knew that would be something they would have in common. My mother teaches at a local private school and every year they host a fun filled dinner and dance competition, “Dancing with the Amarillo Stars”. Since Gyorgy is a ballroom dance competitor in Hungary, he participated and was amazing!

He has made so many of his own friends and only about a month after his arrival, we were doing some grocery shopping and out of the blue a teenage girl walked by and said “Hi Gyorgy”. I knew at that moment he was adjusting just fine. As a family, we have attended a Texas Tech football game in Lubbock, Tx. Amarillo High school football and soccer games, homecoming, and several parades including a Veterans Day parade honoring our military. Which for me, brought out a deep sense of honor and pride in Amarillo, Texas and the United States of America.

Gyorgy bonds with his Local Coordinator's daughter over a friendly lunch

Gyorgy bonds with his Local Coordinator’s daughter over a friendly lunch

Having made the decision to host a student has changed mine and my daughters’ life forever. Gyorgy is appreciative everyday that we selected him and I often tell him he is one of the best decisions I ever made.


My heart will break when he goes home to Hungary, but I won’t regret a second of the year we shared. We plan on staying in contact indefinitely.”


If you are interested in hosting, visit CCI Greenheart’s website to learn more and start your application today!


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