Cenet Launches Cultural Classroom for Southeast Missouri Teachers

Since 2011, Cenet has provided Culture in the Classroom for area schools and groups. Through this program, Cenet has entered countless local classrooms with international visitors to provide authentic, cultural education.

Although Culture in the Classroom has provided free education for thousands of area students, Cenet has decided to take the program one step further by providing cultural experiences for local educators, as well.

In 2019, Cenet will launch Cultural Classroom. The mission is simple: to inspire cultural competency and create a better quality of life for our community members.

Local educators who are selected for Cultural Classroom receive the following:

  • Paid trip to the Dominican Republic with Intentional Tours in July 6-13, 2019 (flight, activities, tour guide, accommodation, transportation, and most meals included).
  • Pre-Departure Orientation.
  • Two workshops on cultural programming.
  • Reimbursement of related expenses (up to $400)*
  • Access to apply for 2nd year in program // includes trip to Europe.

*Cenet will provide criteria on eligible expenses. 

Cultural Classroom eligibility:

  • Must be a current teacher in Southeast Missouri.
  • Possess at least 2 years of teaching experience.
  • Complete the Cultural Classroom application.
  • Include one reference letter from a current administrator at your school.
  • Must be able to attend pre-departure orientation, the trip to the Dominican Republic, and two post-trip workshops (orientation and workshops will take place in Cape Girardeau).
  • Must implement at least 10 hours of intercultural education in your classroom (this can be woven into existing curriculum and workshops will assist in this planning).
  • Application must be emailed to sirena@cenet.org by January 18, 2019.

If you are interested in the program, please submit an application by January 18, 2019. If you have any questions, please email sirena@cenet.org. Applications may be submitted to sirena@cenet.org.

Flyer, Information, and Application: 

To learn more about Intentional Tours, please visit: http://www.intentionaltours.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.Cenet Logo_Black

Cenet Hosts 5th Annual J-Day in Branson

#CelebrateJDay #EatPlayGive #ExchangeTheWorld #ExchangesImpact

On Monday, August 6, cenet hosted the 5th annual J-Day in Branson. Under the motto “eat play give,” cenet provided a service activity, food, and games.

J-Day festivities began at Ozark Mountain Family YMCA where the J-Day Ambassadors presented for nearly 50 children attending a YMCA summer camp. This camp is provided in large part for local foster children. Cenet selected 14 exceptional participants to serve as our J-Day Ambassadors. The Ambassadors represented the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Turkey, India, Thailand, Russia, and China. The campers learned about world cultures from the J-Day Ambassadors. Mayor Tate (Hollister) provided an introduction and thanked the exchange visitors for volunteering their time in the community.

In the afternoon, cenet welcomed nearly 275 guests to Moonshine Beach to celebrate J-Day. The party included beach games, swimming, dancing, and dinner. Mayor Best (Branson) welcomed the students and thanked them for spending their summer breaks in Branson. She also presented certificates to the J-Day Ambassadors in recognition of their community service. Afternoon attendees also supported Ozarks Food Pantry by donating canned and dry food items.

Special thanks to the following people and groups for supporting J-Day:

  • Mayor Tate, Holllister
  • Rick Ziegenfuss, City Administrator, Hollister
  • Denise Olmstead, Assistant City Administrator, Hollister
  • Mayor Best, Branson
  • Mike Ussery on behalf of Rep. Long
  • John Robinson, Branson Tri-Lakes News
  • DJ Christian Guerrero
  • Myer Hospitality
  • The Tracks Family Fun Park
  • Melissa Rangel, Bank of Missouri
  • Branson Baptist Church
  • Local volunteers: Rick Chastain, Carlos Hernandez, Maricela Melgar, Carla Hernandez, Victor Botica, Vladimir and Erica Don
  • Cenet staff: Mercedes Botica, Debra Chastain, Robyn Walker, Tina Schlosser, Sirena Watkins

A photo gallery from Branson J-Day 2018 is included below:

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 Logo_Black


Cenet Co-Hosts First International J-Day

#CelebrateJDay #ExchangesImpact #EatPlayGive #ExchangeOurWorld

In 2014, cenet, Spirit Cultural Exchange, and Greenheart International piloted J-Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchange. Over the last several years, J-Day events have occurred in cities across the United States, bringing community members and exchange participants together to “eat, play, give.”

This year, cenet partnered with Smaller Earth to host the first international J-Day in Liverpool, England. The event welcomed alumni from the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 visa) and their families.

Cenet’s Senior Director, Leslie Corn, spoke on the background and significance of J-Day. Smaller Earth’s Co-Founder, Dave Robinson, provided a welcome address and shared about his first exchange program in the 1980s, a life-changing experience in New York City. After Dave, various alumni told stories about how their exchange experiences impacted their lives for the better.

The event included a prosecco reception, dinner, games, face-painting and coloring stations for children, live music, and a charity drive for the Liverpool South Food Bank resulting in £225 in funds raised. The leftover food from the dinner was donated to the local YMCA.

Below are a few stories shared by program alumni at J-Day Liverpool:

I 100% would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for going on an exchange to the U.S.

Before heading out, I had a little ‘Art Studio’ at home – well I say art studio but it was a cupboard with a light plummed into it (Harry Potter style!). I would spend all my free time here and wouldn’t really socialise. After my first summer abroad, my family and friends saw a huge difference in the person who returned home. This newfound confidence just grew and grew each year.

I was lucky enough to be be made the Speciality Director in my last year on the program, this meant I was helping in 9 activity areas and assisting many staff in these areas. This was a very challenging summer, there’s no doubt there. But, not only did I develop strong leadership skills, but I was able to help give other exchange participants incredible summers and was able to watch them all grow, much like I did in my first summer.

I also wouldn’t have gotten the job I have now if it wasn’t for my confidence and the belief I have in cultural exchange programs. It changed my life and I love knowing I’m able to help change lives of others through cultural exchange.

–Imogen C., Exchange Visitor Program 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017; Field of Study: Advertising and Brand Management; Current Position: Social Media Specialist 

I was at Camp Lincoln as a member of the sailing staff. The place was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One morning I was up at 5am and I saw Sam carrying the water coolers around, ensuring they were full of iced water for the day ahead. Here was a guy who owned the camp, owned another across the lake, and owned 2 high-end holiday resorts, employing hundreds of people and he was up at 5 making sure the kids had access to cool water for the day ahead. 

Down at the dock I met Lafe, he ran the sailing program. We had 30 boats, some were up to 28 foot long. He would raise them up on a lift and spend hours scrubbing the hulls to ensure they moved through the water with minimal drag. No kid would ever notice the incremental benefit of this, but he ensured that everything was the best possible. Of the 60 activities at camp, sailing was by far the most popular.

Camp taught me the value or hard work, the conditions for success were set up and I did better than I had before. 

I was brought up in the an environment where children were told what to do. Where shouting was okay, as a member of the boys brigade we believed that discipline was key, and a louder voice meant results. I took this to camp and one day a kid was playing around on the dock when they should not have been. I shouted at them, they ignored me. Lafe the guy running the sailing program walked up to them, sat down next to them and spoke to them.

They listened to him and did as he asked. Throughout the summer I learned how to create an environment where children (and adults) could flourish. This people based approach has stayed with me ever since. Discipline is not something done in the moment, it is a environment created to ensure people succeed.

At camp in 2006 outside the dining hall, I met Sophie. She smelt of horses. It was really bad. She looked great in her denim shorts and white t-shirt, I spent the summer learning about horses, and we have now been married for 10 years. Our camp values based relationship has set us up to succeed.

I met all kinds of people in the U.S., from the maintenance guy Ron, who lived in a trailer and survived the cold winters with all kinds of woes, to Sam who owned camp and more. These experiences and connections mean that when I hear of opposing political views coming from America about current politics I can connect to each perspective because I know people on each side of the argument.

I have been lucky enough to further develop these skills. Thousands of young people go to the U.S. and have a similar experience, and they, too, have positively impacted the communities they have visited in the U.S, and then their communities at home.

Summer camp is where young people get to take responsibility for things other than themselves, they get to take on challenges they would not face at home in a safe environment where everything else (food, accommodation, planning what to do and more) is taken care of. They get to succeed at a higher level than previously possible.

J-1 cultural exchange makes our society richer, it helps us understand American society properly, and by opening this opportunity to the world, it creates a huge ripple effect.

Here’s a toast to Camp Leaders, CENET, the J-1 Program, the U.S. Department of State, America and participants & hosts!

Mark H. Camp Counselor Program: 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009; Field of Study: Hazards and Geoscience; Current Position: Director of Growth and Development

I’ve met some of my best friends through the program. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others, and I have become a lot more confident. The program made me want to help others have the same experience as me.

Gabor S., Exchange Visitor Program 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; Field of Study: Paramedics; Current Position: Travel Coordinator 

My summer J-1 program impacted me in a way I could never have imagined. I had everything I could wish for at home, including my dream job in London. But due to a burning desire to go to the USA, I took the plunge and went during my second year of University. Fair to say I loved every single minute. I gained the nickname “smiler” that first summer as I just couldn’t stop beaming from ear to ear the entire 9 weeks. The friendships I made were unlike any other that I’ve had in my life. They were deep, honest and we just connected in a way that I hadn’t done with anyone else. I went for my second summer and it still was the best place I’d ever worked. Upon returning home, I got the blues but was then offered my dream job at MTV in London. I was thrilled – yet a part of me still yearned to be in the U.S. with friends from all over the world, doing what I loved. My boss could see it in my eyes and when I sat her down to tell her I didn’t know what to do – she told me I had to go back for another summer. Decision made – 3rd Summer here I come. I qualified as a lifeguard and I developed a love for the water. By my 4th Summer I earned a Waterfront Director position and my life was changed forever.

I was lucky enough to be offered a full time job with Camp Leaders in ’08 and moved up to Liverpool to begin this journey – which I’m still on 10 years later.

It’s hard to put in to words how cultural exchange can impact and change your life, but my god is it important that we all allow ourselves the opportunity to experience its wonder.

Kim H., Exchange Visitor Program: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012; Field of Study: Dance and Professional Practice; Current Position: Head of People and Culture

Special thanks to our partners and friends at Smaller Earth for collaborating on the first international J-Day! 

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 Logo_Black

Midwest Sponsors Hold Annual Safety Summit

On April 12-13, cenet staff traveled to Chicago, IL to join fellow sponsors Greenheart Exchange and Spirit Cultural Exchange for training and networking at the Midwest Safety Summit.

The Summit kicked off at the Greenheart office with an advocacy update from Michael McCarry, former Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange, followed by a networking reception. Day two included Psychological First Aid presented by the Chicago Red Cross, sponsor presentations on safety best practices, an anti-trafficking workshop led by a local expert, and break-out sessions regarding various safety and support topics.

This was the fourth gathering of Midwest sponsors since 2014.

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 Attends Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

On March 7-8, over 100 Alliance members met in Washington, D.C. to advocate for U.S. State Department Exchange Programs.

The annual 2-day event featured training and educational sessions, congressional meetings, and a Congressional Reception.

The Congressional Reception at the U.S. Capitol hosted 177 attendees, including guests from the Hill and State. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and State/ECA Acting Assistant Secretary Jennifer Galt provided remarks at the event; both spoke passionately about exchange programs.

In total, 96 congressional offices were visited (48 House, 48 Senate), with at least 5 Members of Congress attending the meetings. Cenet met with the offices of Senator Blunt, Senator McCaskill, Representative Long, and Representative Smith.

As the voice of international exchange, the Alliance promotes the growth and impact of exchange programs and the effectiveness of its members by engaging in advocacy, providing member development opportunities, and building public awareness of the power of exchange.


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.


Alumni Spotlight: Semih Karatas

Warning: exchange programs often lead to extended feelings of euphoria. Participants experience long-term benefits, lasting friendships, and memories forever credited as “best ever.” Proceed with caution.

Thank you for sharing your experience, Semih! We love to hear from our alumni and how their exchange programs continue to positively impact their lives and careers long after their programs conclude.

I was a hospitality trainee in Louisville, Kentucky for 12 months. I appreciated all of my colleagues. I learned so very much from all of them and I want to keep on learning. Now I am feeling completely different than before my program. I experienced so much and so quickly. I’ve had fun, I’ve been sad, I’ve been happy and scared. I can honestly say this experience was the big step in my future and will help me make my dreams come true. I had a lot to learn from the program and I will follow all the training and advice I received. It was my best experience of my life! Thank you again miss y’all! #internship #Usa #Kentucky #Louisville

– Semih, J-1 Alumnus 

Alumni Semih Karatas Trainee

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.


Branson Mayor Supports Exchange Programs at White House Meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Mayor Best of Branson recently attended a meeting at the White House in honor of “Mayor’s Day: A Conversation with the President.”

In the meeting, Mayor Best supported J-1 exchanges and explained how the programs add value to American communities and businesses.

Attendees included 70 mayors and key members of the Administration, including President Trump and Vice President Pence. The visit was profiled in a recent edition of Branson Tri-Lakes News; an excerpt from the article is included below.

With the rest of the Branson Board of Aldermen set to meet for their regular meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor Karen Best was in Washington, D.C., getting set to address the White House.

“I received an invitation last Thursday to attend the Mayors’ Day: A Conversation with the President, to be held at the White House,” Best said. “That was scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m.”

According to Best, she was one of 70 mayors who attended Wednesday’s event and the second who was able to address the room, which included President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and representatives and directors from other departments.

“My question was geared towards jobs and workers,” Best said. “Finding the workforce to fill those jobs. President Trump is very adamant about buy American hire American and I would love to give Americans the first jobs, but we don’t have a great pool of people who want to work at a lot of minimum wage jobs.”

Best said she told those in attendance the importance of the J-1 Visa program in Branson. Authorized by the U.S. State Department, J-1 allows individuals to travel to the United States for temporary work and study-based exchange programs.

“I shared with them the importance of the J-1 program to us during the summer and that it brings 700-plus workers for us to fill those jobs,” she said. “Therefore, we’re able to keep going as a tourist destination.”

With questions of immigration at the forefront of national conversation, Best said she received good feedback from other mayors on her question and hopes the Trump administration considers the information and how programs like J-1 help communities.

“It has been such an issue at the national level, and I’m not sure which direction they’re going to go,” Best said. “I think they understand the impact it has on communities, and there were several mayors after it was over that thanked me for bringing it to the forefront, because they were having the same issues as well.”

…“It was my great honor to welcome Mayors from across America to the WH,” Trump wrote on Twitter following the event. “My Administration will always support local government – and listen to the leaders who know their communities best.”

…Overall, Best said she’s hopeful the experience allowed Branson to become a part of the national conversation.

“Being at the White House yesterday gave a name and a face to the community of Branson,” Best said. “A chance to present our needs at the federal level, so when it comes time to make those choices and award the money, hopefully our name, face and community is in the front of their minds because they just met with us.”

To read the full article, visit Branson Tri-Lakes News.

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.