CENET’s First 100 Days

Op-Ed By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

I believe it was the wise words of Alabama that once proclaimed “you can’t keep a good man down.” And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Thanks Randy Owen. I’m not certain the song was written for this moment in time, but it could be. It is, after all, 2017– the year of anything is possible.

Due to events that will not be named in this apolitical post (hint: it started in November), it’s safe to say there’s been some recent challenges presented to the exchange community.

In the midst of adversity, it’s as though Alabama (the band) was singing directly to Missouri (the state), and we got to work. Although it felt like our course became uphill, we continued in forward-movement towards our goals.

Below is a snapshot of CENET’s first 100 Days; 100 days well spent, endeavoring to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.


Local:

CENET started the year in our new office, with our new website, with our old staff holding some new titles, and some new staff joining the team. We also welcomed a new J-1 category. It was like we won the lottery. But better because we didn’t get the curse that goes along with all lottery wins (source: the internet).

We also provided Culture in the Classroom sessions for 530 students, impacting 31 classrooms at 3 schools with 9 different presenters sharing their unique cultural backgrounds. A special presentation in Oran attracted media attention from the Southeast Missourian  and KFVS coverage; the session also had support from the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Smith.

CENET hosted a Welcome Reception in our office space, to share our mission with new friends and long-time supporters. Over 150 community members joined us to sample international cuisine and wine & beer selections from around the world.

On April 27, over 40 CENET supporters gathered at Hedman Vineyards for a special culinary and wine event celebrating Swedish culture and raising funds for Culture in the Community. The funds raised at the event will be directed to sending area youth to the world-renowned Concordia Language Villages for 2017 summer programs.

In addition, CENET hosted a local Chamber of Commerce After-Hours event, presented at the women’s Optimist Club in Jackson, sponsored “Carnaval Night: Welcome to Rio” as part of SEMO of the World, welcomed various visiting partners from around the world, and hosted a Magellan University member from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.

 


Regional:

In Branson, CENET cohosted the J-1 Community Forum, and the Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association’s monthly meeting. CENET was also selected to present at the County Partnership’s Workforce Summit. Community members in Branson are highly supportive, with the Branson Mayor and the office of Representative Billy Long regularly attending J-1 related events. CENET’s Regional Director, support staff, fellow sponsors, and community members continue to prepare for another successful summer season in Branson.


National:

We began the year with a visit to our west coast partners to provide J-1 education and training on our new website.

To connect within the exchange community and to gain valuable insight into the Camp Counselor program, CENET attended the American Camp Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Once again, CENET participated in Advocacy Day. CENET and fellow Alliance members visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of J-1 exchanges.

Recently, CENET had the privilege of participating in a volunteer project in Wisconsin Dells, which attracted approximately 360 winter work and travel exchange participants; the following day, CENET attended the Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum.


International:

CENET staff members have visited international partners in the United Kingdom, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and Warsaw, while also attended hiring fairs throughout Europe and the Dominican Republic. In addition, an alumni gathering was held in the Dominican Republic.

Magellan member universities, Aachen University of Applied Sciences and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, also received CENET visits.

CENET attended the WETM conference in Munich, Germany.


Looking Ahead: 

As we move forward, CENET will continue to dedicate ourselves to programs that inspire a safer, more prosperous, and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. We will also continue to advocate for exchange programs and initiatives that promote global knowledge, cultural sensitivity, peaceful solutions. Should you be interested in learning more about CENET programs or how to get involved, please contact CENET.

And if you aren’t sure what CENET is or how you got on this page, you should probably go watch the Alabama Can’t Keep a Good Man Down video. You earned it.

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.

 

Does ‘America First’ Mean ‘America Alone’? 

By Michael McCarry

Op-Ed | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

We are still in the first months of the Trump Administration.  Early indicators suggest that our new President is not yet a supporter of international exchange programs.

While detail is scant concerning Trump’s first proposed budget, press reports indicate he proposes deep cuts in funding for the State Department’s exchange programs.

And during his campaign, Trump indicated that he would eliminate a variety of unfunded State Department programs that reach large numbers of international students and young professionals.  These inbound programs comprise a creative range of activities for young adults that include internships, professional training, camp counseling, and casual work at summer resorts.  These are programs administered by Cultural Exchange Network (CENET) and other nongovernmental organizations in partnership with the State Department.

This apparent disregard for exchanges puts Trump outside a 65-year bipartisan political consensus that these programs are an important component of our national security.

Ronald Reagan, the ultimate Cold Warrior, was a believer.  After his election in 1980, Reagan wanted to deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles in Germany to counter a Soviet deployment.  The German public resisted.

The White House concluded that part of its public opinion problem in Germany was demographic. Germans who remembered the defeat of Hitler, the Berlin airlift, and the Marshall Plan were passing from the scene, along with their personal sense of gratitude toward the U.S.  Rising generations of Germans did not have a similar emotional connection to America.

The Reagan solution?  One element was The President’s Youth Exchange Initiative, designed to greatly expand high school exchanges between the U.S. and other nations, including Western Europe.  The idea was to foster what President Reagan called ‘a language of understanding’ between nations, powered by a cohort of citizens who had lived in each other’s homes, attended each other’s schools, and understood each other’s values.

Since the success of Reagan’s youth exchange initiative, American leaders from both parties have turned repeatedly to exchange programs in times of major international events, whether crisis or opportunity.  People-to-people programs were close to the heart of the American response to the 9/11 attacks, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and China’s Tiananmen Square violence.

Republicans and Democrats have always supported exchange programs for a reason: these programs make a positive difference to our national security.  Exchange experiences build a web of understanding and relationships that lasts a lifetime.  They make us safer.

Think about how much harder it is to demonize an entire nationality – ‘all Americans are this way’ or ‘all Germans are that way’ – if you’ve actually met an American or a German, had a meal with them, worked or studied beside them.  That’s an equation that applies to international students who come here, and to Americans who study abroad.  We all win.

And think, too, how an American exchange experience affects the lives of those who come here.   Those participants return to their home countries with improved English and with new knowledge and self-confidence gained from successfully navigating American culture.  These qualities equip them for future success, and many exchange alumni around the world have gone on to careers as diplomats, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, or even heads of state.  And although if these alumni don’t pursue careers in politics or policy, their influence in business, academia, journalism, or other fields can be significant.

Simply put, these programs make friends, often influential friends, for America.

Our new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, made the point well in Congressional testimony in 2013, when he was Commander of the U.S. Central Command:  “…if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition…

“… it’s a cost-benefit ratio. The more we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.”

For nearly 40 years, Republicans and Democrats have agreed that President Reagan had it right:  we need to keep working on his “language of understanding”, a language that connects Americans to the world, and by doing so, makes us all safer.


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.

CENET Participates in Advocacy Day

By Leslie Corn

Advocacy | #ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

On March 8-9, approximately 120 representatives from over 40 sponsor organizations gathered in Washington, D.C. to advocate for U.S. State Department exchange programs. The Alliance for International Exchange facilitates Advocacy Day annually; the 2017 event was the largest gathering to date.

The schedule featured educational sessions, messaging training, networking opportunities, and a Congressional Reception. The culminating event occurred when participants visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

There were various objectives for the congressional office visits, but ultimately participants asked elected officials to support and protect Department of State exchange programs.

Each year, over 300,000 exchange visitors come to the U.S. on privately funded exchange programs, representing 200 countries; U.S. Department of State provides funding for an additional 55,000 exchange participants. The U.S. needs both federally and privately-funded programs to have a comprehensive, balanced approach to international exchanges. Conversely, over 313,00 Americans study abroad for academic credit and 10,000+ Americans travel abroad as exchange participants (source: Department of State).

J-1 cultural exchange programs serve as a public diplomacy tool that supports U.S. national security, strengthens the U.S. economy, and increases mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations. Additional program benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Exchanges help the U.S. engage with countries key to U.S. interests. Exchanges target demographics key to U.S. foreign policy priorities (U.S. Department of State).
  • 565 Current & former heads of foreign governments are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 82 Nobel Prize winners are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 58 ambassadors to the United Nations are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 89 members of U.S. Congress are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • Exchanges bring resources to U.S. communities. International students contributed 32.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported over 400,000 jobs during the 2015-2016 academic year (NAFSA).
  • Over 1.6 million hours of community service were completed by exchange participants and U.S. hosts (source: U.S. Department of State Evaluations).
  • 94% of students from Muslim-majority countries reported having a deeper, favorable view of American culture after their year in the U.S (U.S. Department of State evaluation of the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program).
  • A review of 29 reports on public diplomacy revealed that the most common recommendation was to increase funding for, and opportunities to engage in, exchange programs (Congressional Research Service [CSR] Review).
  •  EVP exchanges occur at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • U.S. Ambassadors consistently rank exchange programs among the most useful catalysts for long-term political change and mutual understanding.

To join CENET and our colleagues in our advocacy efforts, please email or call the CENET office: cenet@cenet.org or 573-335-7111.

Thank you to Mark Taplin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Kevin Saba, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, for participating in the Congressional Reception; thank you to their Department of State colleagues for attending as well. Special thanks to the offices of Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Claire McCaskill, Representative Smith, Representative Long, and Senator Alexander for meeting with the CENET staff to discuss the positive impact of international exchange programs. 

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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Legislative Offices and Local Media Attend CENET Program at Elementary School

By Leslie Corn

Culture in the Community|#ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

On February 1, Culture in the Community (CITC) visited the 3rd & 4th grade classes at Oran Elementary. After receiving play passports, the students embarked on a “journey around the world”—all from within their school’s gymnasium.

The students rotated through six country stations: Brazil, Australia, India, Costa Rica, Japan, and World Geography. At each stop, international presenters shared their home cultures, customs, and cuisines. Through the interactive presentations, students learned there are not only differences between U.S. and world cultures, but also similarities – and those differences and similarities should be celebrated and not feared.

CENET was joined by staff from the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Smith, as well as KFVS and the Southeast Missourian. Special thanks to Senator Blunt for supporting CITC on social media:

roy-blunt-tweet

CITC aims to provide authentic international education for area schools and groups. Since its inception in 2011, CITC has provided free programs for thousands of area youth. The program utilizes Southeast Missouri State University’s exchange students and international faculty, CENET staff, and local residents from other countries to provide interactive, international education about world cultures.

For more information about the event, check out the Southeast Missourian article  or KFVS coverage.

A photo gallery from the event is included below:

CENET is a non-profit organization located in the Marquette Tech District in Cape Girardeau. In addition to Culture in the Community, CENET serves as a U.S. State Department authorized J-1 visa sponsor. CENET also provides The Magellan Exchange, a study abroad program for faculty and staff from universities worldwide, including Southeast Missouri State University.

Should your organization or school be interested in booking a CITC program, please contact CENET. 573-335-7111; cenet@cenet.org

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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Branson Mayor Honors J-Day Ambassadors for Service in Host Community

By Leslie Corn

J-Day Give | #EatPlayGive #CelebrateJDay #CITC

BRANSON, MO– On Monday, August 1, Mayor Karen Best addressed a crowd of 230 J-Day attendees to not only thank the J-1 community for spending their summer vacations in Branson, but also to award Certificates of Achievement to the specially selected J-Day Ambassadors.

Under the motto “Eat Play Give,” J-Day merges service with celebration. Before the J-Day party commenced at Moonshine Beach, 10 J-Day Ambassadors participated in CENET’s Culture in the Community (CITC) program. CITC is an initiative that brings authentic international education to area groups and schools, with a special emphasis on low-income and undeserved schools and communities.

Through CITC, the J-Day Ambassadors spent the morning sharing their cultures with children ages 4-12 at the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA.

The program began with a skit involving would-be tourists attempting to embark on a trip around the world, only to find they have arrived at the YMCA and not the airport. The Griswold-esque couple urges the children to learn as much about each country as possible, so they may report the information back to them.

The J-Day Ambassadors were set up in country stations and the children rotated “around the world” in small groups to learn about each country. The stops included China, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Turkey, Jamaica, India, Bangladesh, and a map station. The children sampled authentic foods from each country; they also enjoyed photos, postcards, traditional clothing, currency, music, dance, and other cultural selections made by the J-Day Ambassadors.

Senator Blunt sent two office representatives to the Culture in the Community segment: Joelle Cannon, District Office Director (Springfield, MO) and Richard Eddings, Scheduler (Washington, D.C.). Both were able to meet the J-Day Ambassadors  and  visit their country stations.

It was an honor to spend time with the J-1 Ambassadors and watch local youth learn first-hand about different cultures across the world. Culture in the Community is an exciting CENET initiative and we really enjoyed being part of the celebration of these great students!

-Joelle Cannon, Office of U.S. Senator Roy Blunt

In addition, Senator McCaskill’s District Office Director, David Stokeley, was able to join the J-Day celebration and congratulate the J-Day Ambassadors honored by Mayor Best. David Stokeley also met with J-1 host employers, various J-1 participants, and a 7-year old boy who attended the CITC morning session.

Senator McCaskill, Senator Blunt, Mayor Best, and Ozark Mountain Family YMCA took to social media to support J-Day and the applaud the J-Day Ambassadors:

Mayor Best presented Certificates of Achievement to the J-Day Ambassadors:

  • Yerlin De La Cruz
  • Yiwen Cao
  • Rushanda Pitt
  • Emelisa Norberto Cisnero
  • Akash Patel
  • Berna Gulen
  • Berda Akar
  • Chuting Pi
  • Valeriia Zahorska
  • Ayesha Kadri, CENET Staff Ambassador

The J-Day Ambassadors reported positive feedback about the CITC service event. A few of the J-Day Ambassador’s responses are included below.

Yerlin, J-Day Ambassador:

I enjoyed participating in Culture in the Community too much. It is important to share my culture because other people can know about it and be interested in visiting my country. I see value in teaching children about other countries. The children showed interest when we talked about our cultures and they listened and asked questions about it. Participating in Culture in the Community is a valuable opportunity for J-1 participants. I think the program is excellent and it was a pleasure. I’m so proud to be part of this amazing experience. I enjoyed sharing with the kids and teaching them about my culture. Thank you!

Emelisa, J-Day Ambassador:

I enjoyed participating in Culture in the Community a lot. Sharing cultures is extremely important because as you share something about your country, other people may be interested in learning more and visiting. It’s very valuable to teach children about other cultures. With this group, I was impressed to see the children paying attention and showing concern by asking us questions about the differences between our meals, moneys, birds, and more. It is a great opportunity for J-1 participants. I am very grateful and happy to have been selected to participate in this great activity where I could meet those wonderful children.

Chuting, J-Day Ambassador:

I think participating in Culture in the Community is my precious experience in America. I really enjoyed it. It is important to share cultures. I am proud of my country and I love my culture. I want others to have correct understanding about my country. Introducing Chinese culture may let them visit China one day, seeing what I see. There is value teaching children about cultures because children have a strong acceptance ability. Teaching them about other cultures can broaden their horizons. The children with whom I shared my culture with have strong curiosity and respect for other cultures. They listened to me carefully and asked me what they wanted to know. I think every J-1 participant desires to have such a wonderful chance to participate in Culture in the Community. CENET should choose even more countries and participants to represent their countries!

 Akash, J-Day Ambassador:

I enjoyed participating in Culture in the Community a lot. It is important to share my culture so the new generation will know how there are the different cultures in the world going on and they can meet new people of different cultures. That can also help them when they meet new people. I see value in teaching children about other cultures and my impression of the children was good. It’s absolutely valuable for CENET to extend this kind of opportunity for more J-1 participants. I would like to thank CENET wholeheartedly for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to be a participant as a J Day Ambassador! If CENET needs any kind of help from me to promote this program, I would appreciate doing so.

Ayesha Kadri, CENET Staff Ambassador:

As a staff member at CENET and as an international student from Bangladesh, I had a spectacular time participating in Culture in the Community and showing the YMCA students my culture.

I believe it’s very important to not only share my culture, but also to learn about other cultures as well. Often, individuals may not have the means necessary to be exposed to different cultural backgrounds and activities. For me, it’s important to participate in Culture in the Community, as young students may have never heard of Bangladesh, let alone be familiar with its culture. A small hint of knowledge or information can be the spark that ignites a whole new world for young individuals!

I see immense value in teaching children about other countries and cultures. Oftentimes, children may learn opposing views or wrong information about a different culture. This may lead to stereotypes and doubts when meeting an individual from that respective culture. By teaching children about other cultures, we are giving them a platform to be curious, to ask questions, and to learn while being exposed to a different culture in a fun and safe environment.

I’ve participated in countless Culture in the Community presentations, but this by far my favorite. The children all seemed very eager to learn about all the different counties. They were excited to try to new snacks and see the differences represented by each country. To see them be so accepting and happy about learning filled me with pride in what I do, as a CENET staff member and as an international individual.

I believe it’s very valuable for CENET to extend this opportunity to more J-1 participants. I remember hearing many J-1 participants state that they were eager to share their culture with others, especially with children who were so eager to learn! This activity promotes an engagement that goes well beyond learning through textbooks and the internet. It’s hands-on; the children can see, feel, taste, and hear – giving them a true experience for their senses and meeting varying learning styles.

Thank you to our wonderful J-Day Ambassadors for their commitment to increased global knowledge and greater cultural understanding. Special thanks to the following: the J-1 host employers for adjusting schedules for the J-Day Ambassadors; Ozark Mountain Family YMCA for hosting CITC; CENET’s Branson Coordinator, Abigail Palmer, for arranging transportation for the J-Day Ambassadors; CENET staff member, Ayesha Kadri, for sharing her culture as a Staff Ambassador; community advocates and CENET support staff, Rick & Debra Chastain, for serving as zany, lost tourists in the skit; Mayor Karen Best for presenting awards to the J-Day Ambassadors; and lastly, thank you to the offices of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt for supporting J-Day and J-1 exchanges. 

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. To read more about J-Day, please click here.

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CENET Hosts J-Day Celebration in Branson

By Leslie Corn

#CelebrateJDay #EatPlayGive #CENETJ1 | J-Day 2016

BRANSON, MO– On Monday, August 1, 2016, over 230 J-1 participants, community members, and elected officials and staff gathered at Moonshine Beach to celebrate J-Day and the power of international exchange programs.

Under the motto “Eat Play Give,” J-Day merges community service and celebration. J-Day Branson involved a morning session of Culture in the Community at the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA. J-1 participants volunteered their time to serve as J-Day Ambassadors, providing cultural presentations to children ages 5-12.

Later at the Moonshine Beach celebration, J-Day Ambassadors were presented with Certificates of Achievement by Mayor Karen Best.

Along with a keynote speech by Mayor Best, J-Day attendees enjoyed American style cuisine, beach games, volleyball, swimming, and dancing.

The event received bipartisan support, as the offices of Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Roy Blunt attended J-Day festivities. Both elected officials took to social media after the event to show their support of J-Day and the value of international exchange programs.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is governed by the U.S. State Department. The program gives future leaders from around the globe the opportunity to come to the United States to exchange ideas and cultures with the people of the U.S. through temporary training and educational opportunities. This summer, approximately 500 J-1 visitors are spending their university summer breaks in Branson, MO; approximately 200 J-1 participants attended J-Day Branson.

Other attendees included community members, area business owners and operators, and Cultural Exchange Network (CENET).

CENET is a non-profit organization located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with an additional office servicing the Springfield/Branson area. CENET is a U.S. State Department authorized J-1 visa sponsor. CENET also operates The Magellan Exchange, a consortium of universities worldwide providing student and faculty exchanges. In addition, CENET facilitates Culture in the Community, an initiative aimed at providing authentic international education for local youth.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.

Helpful Links:

www.culturalexchangenetwork.org

http://www.alliance-exchange.org/CelebrateJDay

For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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What is the J-1 Visa?

By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 | #ExchangesImpact

What is the J-1 visa? Why does the U.S. have the J-1 program? Is the J-1 visa bad? Does it hurt America? Answers to these questions and more can be found in this J-1 visa overview.

The J-1 visitor program is a non-immigrant visa that allows future leaders from around the globe to experience a temporary cultural exchange program in the United States. Each year, approximately 300,000 future leaders from more than 200 approved countries and territories come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa.

J-1 Visa Quick Facts:

  • All J-1 visa categories include an educational or training component while participants temporarily reside in the United States.
  • The program promotes cultural exchange between the U.S. and other countries.
  • J-1 exchanges support U.S. National Security.
  • J-1 exchanges help the U.S. Engage with countries key to U.S. interests.
  • J-1 exchanges target demographics key to U.S. foreign policy priorities:
    • 83% of participants are under 30.
    • 31% are 21 or under.
    • 53% are women or girls.
  • The J-1 visa strengthens the U.S. economy.
  • J-1 cultural exchanges occur at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • J-1 exchanges bring resources to U.S. communities through program dollars and participant spending while in the U.S.
  • J-1 exchange participants stimulate innovation & cultivate entrepreneurship

 

The J-1 visa is a public diplomacy program that increases U.S. national security, strengthens the U.S. economy, and increases mutual understanding.

To learn more about the J-1 visa, check out the J-1 Visa Overview.

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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