Branson J-Day Attracts 400 Participants

J-Day 2017 | #CelebrateJDay #EatPlayGive

On Monday, August 7, 2017, Cultural Exchange Network (CENET) hosted J-Day in Branson, Missouri. J-Day is a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchange and an opportunity to raise awareness of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

Under the motto “Eat, Play, Give,” cities across the U.S. held J-Day events; over 52 J-Day celebrations took place nationwide.

In the morning, CENET provided a Culture in the Community program at the Ozark Family YMCA in Hollister, MO. A group of outstanding participants were selected to share their world cultures with 50+ local children.

Mayor Tate (Hollister) opened the event and Mayor Best (Branson) concluded the Culture in the Community session by presenting Certificates of Achievement to the J-Day Ambassadors. Rick Ziegenfuss, City Administrator of Hollister, joined the session, as well as Assistant City Administrator, Denise Olmstead.

CENET also welcomed the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Long to the special J-Day Culture in the Community session. Branson Tri-Lakes News covered the event here.

In the afternoon, CENET gathered with around 320 J-1 participants, host employers, and community members for a party at Moonshine Beach! Participants enjoyed a meal, dancing, beach games, and swimming.

The afternoon party welcomed special guests from Senator McCaskill’s office; Rick Ziegenfuss, City Administrator; the Branson Chamber of Commerce; many volunteers from the local community; and fellow sponsors and friends from CIEE and CCI Greenheart.

Attendees at the Moonshine Beach celebration also collected approximately 200 canned food items for Ozark Food Harvest.

With approximately 400 participants throughout the day, J-Day in Branson enjoyed a successful fourth year.

Thank you to our J-Day sponsors Secutive & Orange Hospitality for your generous donations, and to Grand Country and Price Chopper for food donations. Thank you to our local volunteers: Rick & Debra Chastain, Kelly Kirkpatrick, Amaradai De Pena, Felix Baez, and Jason & Katie Buchanan. Special thanks to Branson Chamber of Commerce representatives Heather Hardinger & Mercedes Botica; Branson Tri-Lakes News for covering the Culture in the Community session; host companies who donated supplies; and to Shauna Pye with CCI Greenheart & Anna O’Reardon with CIEE for assisting with the event.  Lastly, thank you to the City of Hollister, the City of Branson, Mayor Tate, Mayor Best, Senator McCaskill, Representative Long, and Senator Blunt for your support of J-Day and exchange programs that make a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world!

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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CENET’s Culture in the Community Partners with Boys & Girls Club on 6-week Summer Camp

Culture in the Community | #CITC #CENETJ1

CAPE GIRARDEAU– This summer, CENET had the privilege of providing Culture in the Community (CITC) sessions for the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club. The 6-week summer camp catered to area children ranging from ages 4-16.

Each week, special guests from around the world presented to groups of 16 students. Special presentations included: Rania Majed & family (Syria); Ritabrata Kar, Shvetha Gohn, and Sherwin Christian (India); José Andrés Miño & Tiffany Comfort (Ecuador); Brayan Rueda (Costa Rica); Maria Sheikh (Pakistan); and lastly, presentations by CENET staff members covering the meaning of culture and a spotlight on African countries.

Throughout camp, the students enjoyed a wide array of activities ranging from world cooking demonstrations, cricket instruction, partner yoga, henna tattoo application, and global arts and crafts. Many students also enjoyed a field trip to the CENET office.

At the conclusion of the 6-week camp, the culminating event was a Culture Fair that was put on by a select group of students who had participated in the first 5-weeks of camp. Approximately 55 students participated in the Culture Fair.

Special thanks to the Boys & Girls Club and to the presenters; additional thanks to Centenary Methodist Church for providing the camp space.

A photo gallery from Boys & Girls Club CITC sessions is included below, as well as a video.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

CENET Hosts WorldFest in Branson, MO

Cultural Activities | #BransonJ1 #CENETJ1

BRANSON, MO– On July 18, 175 J-1 Summer Work Travel participants gathered at Skyline Baptist church for WorldFest, a celebration that combines traditions from Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Attendees enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner, a Halloween themed photo booth, games, and prizes. Participants were encouraged to share their own cultures by wearing traditional clothing or bringing items that represent their home countries.

Special thanks to Skyline Baptist Church for the venue and meal preparation ,Branson bank for event funding, Rick & Debra Chastain for organizing games, and CIEE for providing transportation.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

 

CENET Partners with University of Tennessee Knoxville and Missouri State University to Provide J-1 Leadership Summits

Equipping Future Leaders | #ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

This summer, CENET has had the privilege of once again partnering with the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Missouri State University to provide two separate leadership conferences for J-1 participants spending their summers in the surrounding communities. The events provided leadership training for over 50 J-1 Summer Work and Travel participants.

University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK)

Approximately 15 J-1 Summer Work Travel participants traveled from Gatlinburg, TN and Pigeon Forge, TN to visit UTK in June. The visit included a campus tour; a presentation on American Musical Roots and a tour of the NPR station on campus (WUOT); a presentation on phrasal verbs and informal English; a tour of the Howard Baker Center; and a session on graduate admissions in the U.S.

Highlights included an improvised song written about the J-1 students by Todd Steed, as well as an NPR tour that resulted in two J-1 participants getting to record an interview. Todd Steed has worked, lived, and studied in China, Lithuania, and Indonesia, and his global knowledge and sharp sense of humor helped him connect with the students. The students also enjoyed an engaging presentation on phrasal verbs from Em Chitty, author of “How We Really Talk and Sound.” Em Chitty shared: “It was a pleasure to present on phrasal verb idioms to your CENET attendees. I was happy to give them a key to understanding common idioms that are hard to figure out. They were an attentive and delightful audience.” The students also gained insight into U.S. graduate programs through an informative session given by Dr. Andy Ray; Dr. Ray is a former Peace Corps. volunteer and currently serves as International Student Recruitment Manager.

After the visit, Todd Steed shared, “We loved having the CENET visitors to WUOT.  They were totally tuned in and anything that makes the world a little smaller and warmer these days, we are all for it.”

Thank you to the University of Tennessee Knoxville for hosting CENET & our area participants!

Missouri State University (MSU)

Approximately 41 J-1 participants from 9 countries attended the CENET Leadership Conference at MSU in mid-July. The J-1 students are spending their university breaks in nearby Branson, MO.

The 1-day leadership training included: opening comments and a presentation on “Leadership in an Interdependent World” by Brad Bodenhausen, Director of International Leadership and Training Center; a themed lunch titled “Little Italy”; a panel discussion on leadership led by MUS faculty and staff; a campus tour; and lastly, a closing reception with MSU International student leaders, faculty, staff, and special guests.

Thank you MSU and the International Leadership Training Center for hosting and coordinating this special event! Additional thanks to the office of Senator Claire McCaskill for attending the CENET Leadership Conference at Missouri State University!

 

 

 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

 

Summer Jobs and the National Interest

By Michael McCarry 

Op-Ed | @CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

Two recent articles – one in Time magazine and the other on National Public Radio – demonstrate that American students are losing interest in summer jobs.

Time cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicating that only 35 per cent of American teenagers actually look for summer jobs, and notes (again BLS stats) that the number of young Americans seeking summer jobs has declined 15 per cent over the past 15 years.  So this is a trend, not an aberration.

Time argues that the decline is mostly about American students’ aspirations for higher education.  As college admission in the U.S. grows more and more competitive, American students increasingly spend their summers on academic enrichment or resume-building activities like internships, organized sports, and volunteering.  Time reports that resort operators have filled the gap with older American workers and international university students, who come to the U.S. through the Department of State’s Summer Work Travel (SWT) program.

NPR agrees that declining interest in summer jobs has to do with college, but arrives at its conclusion via a different path.  The piece makes a persuasive economic case that low wages from a summer resort job no longer make a dent in sharply rising college costs.  Students thus invest their time in activities they perceive to have a higher return, i.e. enhancing their resumes, even if the return isn’t monetary.

The appearance of these articles is timely.  The White House and several federal agencies are working on plans to implement an Executive Order entitled, “Buy American, Hire American.”  A sharp reduction in the Summer Work Travel program is apparently under discussion.

This would be a very serious mistake.

First, as the BLS data show, international students who come to the U.S. on SWT are not displacing Americans.  Instead, they are filling a gap that the tourism sector of our economy desperately needs filled.  Time quotes Tommy Diehl, president of a major attraction in the Wisconsin Dells:  “If anyone says these people are taking jobs away from Americans, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Just as important, SWT is the State Department’s largest exchange program, and its only program that reaches undergraduates in significant numbers.  And because the program is funded through student fees, all these positive people-to-people connections happen at no cost to the US taxpayer.

Students come from all over the world – Ireland, Russia, Ukraine, China, Turkey, and Brazil are among the largest sending countries – and enjoy the powerful cultural exchange experience of learning to live and work in a new country.  Students cover their program and living costs through their earnings.  Surveys show that over 90 per cent of these students are motivated to visit the U.S. by their desire for cultural exchange, not because they want to work. Ninety per cent have a positive experience, make American friends, and improve their English.  And a remarkable 98 per cent recommended the program to friends, a clear sign of a successful exchange program.

Here’s where we are, in policy terms:

We have a popular, successful Summer Work Travel program that builds good will for the U.S around the world at no cost to the American taxpayer, directly connects us with students who are future leaders in their home countries, and supports our tourism sector by filling a critical seasonal gap.

And yet, policymakers are considering sharply reducing the size of the program, or perhaps even eliminating it, despite much diminished demand from Americans for such jobs.

Someone asked me recently if this circumstance really poses a serious threat to the program.  After all, she continued, SWT has faced regulatory challenges in recent years and always has emerged stronger.

My answer:  on a scale of existential threat with 10 being the most threatening, we are now facing a 10.  What’s going on in Washington is not a discussion about the best way to run the program, but whether we should have the program at all.

All American stakeholders in this program – host communities, employers, and sponsors – should make their voices heard by their Members of Congress and the White House.  Summer Work Travel is a national diplomatic asset – low cost, high value, long-term payoff – that we need to preserve.

Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

The Summer Work Travel program is good for Americans and great for America. This cultural exchange program that supports strong economies and & U.S. national security interests is under attack. For more information and ways to get involved in protecting this valuable public diplomacy program, please visit Americans for Cultural Exchange or contact CENET.  

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Worrisome Gaps in State Department Staffing

By Michael McCarry 

Op-Ed | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

About a month ago, I wrote that Congress’s strong appropriation for the Department of State and for its exchange programs was a very encouraging sign for all of us in the exchange community.

Maybe I wrote too soon.

An NPR interview this week with Max Bergmann, who worked at State for six years during the Obama Administration, publicly reinforced what I’ve been hearing for some time from colleagues in and around the Department:  that under Secretary Rex Tillerson, State is being – to use Bergmann’s term – ‘hollowed out’.

Even with a one per cent increase in funding for the current fiscal year (not usually considered a sign of dire financial straits), the Trump administration’s State Department has instituted a hiring freeze.  That means that as people leave or retire, they mostly are not replaced.  Some senior Foreign Service Officers and civil servants – people with abiding personal commitments to U.S. national security and career-deep expertise – have been reassigned to lesser positions, and have chosen to leave the Department.  And the intake of junior Foreign Service officers appears to have slowed to a trickle.

Put these details together and here’s what you get:  State is choosing to diminish itself at its senior and junior rungs, and to not fill vacancies.  It’s hard to discern how this approach will enhance our diplomacy, or our national security.

You can hear Bergmann’s NPR interview here.

And read his longer treatment of the topic in a Politico article here.

I served in the Foreign Service for about 16 years, with overseas tours in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Beijing, plus several Washington assignments.  I can tell you that the State Department’s foreign service and civil service staff is exceptional – smart, dedicated, and passionate about serving the American public.  I was proud to be among them, every single day.

The notion that we can conduct successful diplomacy on the cheap is just wrong.  The United States remains the most important country in the world, and we need a State Department that can effectively serve our national interests, needs, and ambitions.  That requires resources, not just dollars but also human resources.

State Department staffing is not the kind of topic that will lead the nightly news, but it is critically important to our national well-being.  This issue raises serious alarm bells, and thus deserves serious attention from Congress, the media, and the public.

Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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CENET Celebrates International Day of Yoga in Cape Girardeau

Culture in the Community | #CENETJ1 #CITC

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO– On June 21, Kelley Downes and CENET staff member Danielle Henry co-taught a yoga class along the banks of the Mississippi River in honor of International Day of Yoga (IDY). Several CENET staff members attended the class, which attracted approximately 60 participants.

Per the IDY website:

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice. On December 11 in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. The declaration came after the call for the adoption of June 21st as International Day of Yoga by Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 wherein he stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition . It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. ” In Suggesting June 21, which is the Summer Solstice, as the International Day of Yoga, Mr. Narendra Modi had said that, “the date is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world. 175 nations, including USA, Canada and China co-sponsored the resolution. It had the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA Resolution of such nature.

CENET looks forward to continued cooperation and participation in IDY in the future.

Special thanks to the City Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation department and Christine Jaegers for coordinating IYD in Cape Girardeau.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.