Area Representative Peggy Griggs Spotlights One of Her Shining Stars

It is not uncommon for ISE Area Representatives to become mentors to students. As a matter of fact, it is more often the rule than the exception. As an Area Rep, you find a family for your student to live with, monitor his or her progress while living in the U.S. and are there for many of the important milestones that happen during the crucial young adult stage that ISE students occupy. Watching a student grow, learn, and mature as a person forms a kind of bond that is difficult to dissolve and impossible to forget.

That is why International Student Exchange loves to read stories like the one below, submitted by Peggy Griggs, an ISE Representative from El Paso, TX. Her student, Simon Grung, seems destined for many great things, and ISE is proud to hear of his accomplishments. Please read on:

Simen Grung, an exchange student from Norway, attends Faith Christian Academy in El Paso, Texas. He is an excellent student. His host mother, Norma Zacherl, and I are very proud of him for all of his achievements.

Simen will be attending the 2013 TCAL (Texas Christian Athletic League) State Fine Arts and Academics Competition on April 17 – 20, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. The competition includes categories in Music, Dance, Fine Arts and Mathematics. He will have an entry in three categories: Sculpture, Photography, and Choir.

Faith Christian Academy, established in 1981, offers the total package in education, as well as an excellent educational opportunity for students ranging from K-3 through 12th grade. FCA is fully accredited by the International Christian Accrediting Association and recognized as an accredited school by the Texas Education Association. Committed to providing their students and their parents with as many tools as possible, FCA strives to ensure success in education. All of their students achieve a higher level academically, spiritually, and physically.
Best wishes to Simen in the 2013 TCAL State Fine Arts and Academics competition.

Exchange Student Joins Community Outreach Program, Helps Feed the Homeless

St. John the Evangelist faith formation program promotes outreach, advocacy and awareness

GREEN BAY — When teens choose to get up at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday to provide service, they must believe in the cause. That was the case at St. John the Evangelist Church on Feb. 24. Members of the high school faith formation program and adult volunteers prepared a hot breakfast for residents at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter.

“It’s worth getting up,” said Jolee Hansen, a sophomore at Preble High School. “I love being able to help out the homeless. I think that everyone who helps them out is fantastic. I don’t like seeing people homeless. I’m glad we have a shelter.” “We are grateful for all our meal volunteers do for our guests seeking shelter from the cold winter months,” said Mike Westenberg, who coordinates the meal program at the shelter. “The love and concerns for our guests they pour into each meal is obvious to our staff, volunteers and nightly guests. It is a vital part of the ministry we share in as we all seek to care for our brothers and sisters.”


Amanda Miranda moves French toast from the griddle to a pan held by volunteer Lou Stoller at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter on Feb. 24. Providing breakfast for shelter residents is one of several outreach efforts by high school faith formation students at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Green Bay. (Rick Evans | For The Compass)

Large containers of bacon and French toast were transported next door from the parish kitchen. The shelter’s kitchen is not licensed for cooking food for the guests. Church and school groups, organizations, co-workers and families fill most of the dinner schedule.

Notre Dame School, De Pere, for example, provides meals every other Monday. Most days, only cold foods are available to shelter residents in the morning, so the St. John the Evangelist faith formation group chose breakfast. They will return to serve pancakes in three weeks.

Funds to purchase the breakfast items were collected through the “Souper Bowl of Caring,” a nationwide, youth-led effort, which encourages people to make donations at worship services on the weekend of the Super Bowl.

“We let the parish know in advance that we would be doing this kettle campaign at each Mass,” explained Ron Renquin, a volunteer with the faith formation program. “The kids speak from the pulpit so it gives them an opportunity in front of the people and for the congregation to see who they are.”

Renquin and Helen Wellens are both in their sixth year working with the high school students. Jolene Hunkins and her daughter, Bridget Hunkins, a former student in the program, also serve as volunteer leaders. Catholic social teaching is a focus with the young people.

“It’s much more than preparing a meal,” said Renquin. “It’s understanding, it’s advocacy, being aware of what is happening within your city. How does your city view homelessness from different perspectives? Open your eyes when you go to school. How many kids at your school are living out of the backseats of cars?”

The goal is to reach the students so they apply what they learn at Wednesday evening faith formation sessions to their everyday lives, he added.

“All of a sudden, they start noticing people on the buses,” he said. “They notice people in the library and the homeless people walking downtown. That means that they don’t look away, but share a smile or say hello. It may be the best thing that happened to that person the entire day. How can we make a difference?”

Additional outreach efforts also allow the teens to live out their faith. The students organized a stone soup meal for the parish. Suggested ingredients were written on stones and placed in baskets near the church doors. Parish members grabbed a stone and returned the ingredient.

“We generally not only get more than enough ingredients to make the soup, we usually get enough to make sandwiches and various other things to go with it,” said Renquin. “It becomes a community building situation.”

“Fill a Pantry Shelf,” a collection for Paul’s Pantry is under way. Students will not only deliver the food, but spend a Saturday working at the pantry.

“Everyone goes their different directions (at the pantry) and at some point we meet up,” said Renquin. “We go for pizza afterwards. We use it as a wrap. Everyone gets to share what they did that day and what they learned from the day.”

The teens also ring bells for the Salvation Army during the holiday season and will spend a Saturday shopping for items needed at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter.

Amanda Miranda, an exchange student from Brazil who is a senior at Preble High school, has participated in the faith formation program, including the service projects. She attended church services with her mother in her homeland, but was not previously involved in community outreach.

“Here, it is really different for me,” she said. “I like the generosity of people giving to those who don’t have the same things they have in their lives.”

Miranda is 18, so she was able to serve breakfast at the shelter.

“The people were so appreciative,” she said. “They made a point of coming back and thanking us.”

“I wish I was 18, so I could help out, but at least I know that I’m doing my part by making the food,” said Hansen, Miranda’s host sister. “Last week, I heard about the death of someone from hypothermia. That is really sad. It really touches the heart when you see people in need and you know that you are helping them out.”

For more information about St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter, go to Those interested in providing a meal at the shelter may contact Mike Westenberg at

*** This article was originally written by Jeff Kurowski in The Compass, Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Catholic Diocese newspaper.***

International Student Exchange and Global Youth Service Day

The title St. Jude has become synonymous with advancing medical treatment for childhood illnesses ranging from cancers and viruses to genetic diseases and birth defects. The hospital’s contributions to the advancement of disease treatment and research has been invaluable in helping sick children the world over, and giving parents and their families hope when battling life threatening illnesses. Recognized internationally for its magnanimous efforts, the hospital relies mainly on donations and sponsorship in order to fund their research and treatment programs, and thanks to generous supporters has been able to deliver quality medical care since 1962.

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In order to lend support to this benevolent establishment, Area Representatives from the ISE Delta Region and managers from our headquarters in New York met this weekend in Tennessee at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Handing out gifts and donations collected by our foreign exchange students and representatives, the team earned a lot of smiles and gratitude from the children undergoing treatment at the hospital, and left with a lasting impression that has inspired them to do even more in the coming weeks.

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That may be the reason why this coming April, International Student Exchange, in partnerships with organizations all over the country, will participate in Global Youth Service Day, a weekend-long event that inspires young people in the United States to volunteer for worthy causes and give back to their communities. At the epicenter of this initiative is the staying feeling of satisfaction experienced by the Delta team this past weekend.

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“This was a fantastic opportunity to give back to kids and to support a worthy cause. The students and the reps both enjoyed themselves, and the parents and children at St. Jude’s could not have been more gracious and thankful. It was a really good feeling,” says Exchange Program Manager, Gary Lubrat.

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The coming GYSD will for ISE include activities such as fund raisers, community outreach, volunteerism, and community service initiatives, all of which are intended to show the nation what our foreign guests think of the American communities that have opened their homes to the Exchange Visitor Program.


“The goal,” says Lubrat, “is not only to say thank you to the American families that welcome our students into their lives, but to show the community at large that volunteerism and service should be at the forefront of everyone’s life. This event is a chance to show everyone how it’s done. Once we got involved at St. Jude’s, the team began thinking up a lot of other organizations we could work with, and the idea simply snowballed.”

Part of the International Student Exchange visitor program requires all visiting students to complete five hours of community service while in the United States, but as the headquarters reports, most students will complete many more hours during their stay. Thanks to GYSD, many students will easily complete double their required hours or more, bringing the total to somewhere around 42,000 service hours in this season alone.