Small Towns, Big Opportunities, and other Wisdom from an Experienced LC

Pat is a Local Coordinator placing in Oklahoma

Pat is a Local Coordinator placing in Oklahoma


by Jillian Sims, AYP Program Assistant

Pat began his experience in the cultural exchange community back in the 90s when he and his wife decided to start hosting. They did this for a few years until a CCI Greenheart representative contacted him at his school, where Pat is a superintendent. The representative asked for recommendations of people who would be a good Local Coordinator (LC) to place exchange students with volunteer host families. Pat knew the role of an LC  was for him and quickly jumped aboard for a future in cultural exchange.  For the past six years now with CCI Greenheart, he has not only continued to host, (see our other blog featuring Pat’s hosting experience) as an LC, he has passionately reached out to others willing to host and has placed nearly 30 exchange students in Oklahoma.

My biggest observation from this is that we complain about life in general [here in the US], then we see thousands of people wanting to come here. It is a humbling experience. Then you meet these kids who have dreamed of coming here. You realize we are talking with our mouth’s full.

So, how does Pat find all of these opportunities to place exchange students? When asked what is the best way to recruit new host families, he is quick to tell you to use your best asset: your current exchange students.

If you have one or two [students], especially in a small town, these students are quickly noticed by the community and provide a great jumping off place in conversations with interested host families, schools, and community members. The students practically speak for themselves, and in fact, they can even become the town celebrity – an opportunity that is sometimes missed in a large town or school where there are thousands of teens.  When your exchange students are a part of the community, the payoff builds each year as more and more students are regularly placed in your local area.

For the LC just starting out, with no placements yet under their belt, he encourages approaching the schools, and don’t let a rural setting or smaller population stop you! Though there are only about 20 schools within his territory, with some graduating classes ranging from sometimes as little as 8 to 100, Pat plays this factor to his, the school’s and the student’s advantage.

For the student it means a greater chance of school participation, as usually the student has a greater chance of making a team, joining a club, or even donning some pom poms and cheering for their school team – a uniquely American high school experience. “Most girls what to be cheer leaders, but you know {in bigger schools} these students are already picked the previous year.”

For the school and student body, a CCI Greenheart exchange student can be very positive. They bring their culture and world awareness, along with their own unique skills and interests.  Pat also thinks that CCI Greenheart is a name to stand by. “CCI Greenheart has a great relationship with [international] partners and they do a great job of screening the exchange students.” Pat has over 35 years’ experience as a school administrator and knows firsthand that the confidence in that statement can mean a lot to schools.

Pat taps into his experience as a school administrator in other ways too.  Perhaps most profound is Pat’s approach to contact with the student and it comes from his experience as a superintendent knowing that parents seek information about their children. He writes his monthly contact logs in the mindset of reporting what he thinks their natural parents or mother would want to know about them and their progress, just like he would do with one of his students at school.

Pat shares that over the years he has sometimes had to act as a disciplinarian to some students. Sometimes he is even glad to do it if it means the success of student’s progress; for example, he encourages students, host families, and natural parents to ‘put up the phone’, computer, etc. after the first week after arrival. It allows the student to immerse themselves in their community and new family, and even if they may grumble at first for this, it’s pretty clear that Pat is usually always able to win them over soon after and long before the end of their program.

It helps too, that Pat puts great importance on matching a student with the family. He works hard to know the family and the student bio and present good candidates to his families. It’s not a guarantee there will be no problems, but it’s certainly a good foundation.

Now, Pat looks back over his time with CCI Greenheart. He can recall being there for students during tough times, or even chuckle over some of the funny things they say. His favorite is a young German student who would reply ‘Me not too’ instead of ‘Me neither.’ Or perhaps Pat can look too towards his former students futures and accomplishments, such as those who went on to prestigious US universities and careers.

It becomes obvious when speaking with Pat that he is someone who sees the positive in challenges. Small towns and rural areas are far from a negative factor in placing an exchange student. For Pat, his students, schools, and families, it’s a chance for immersion in that American experience so many students are eagerly hoping they will have.