Students involved with the International Student Exchange, along with host families and members of Team Giving and the American River Parkway Foundation, spent a recent Saturday cleaning up Mile Zero South of the American River Parkway, in Sacramento, California.
The American River Parkway runs 23 miles, covering approximately 5,000 acres of the American River’s foreshore.
The clean-up, during which students from Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain collected 1,300 pounds of garbage, was part of ISE’s community service program, Project HELP. It provides an opportunity for students to become involved in their host communities in a fun and rewarding way, while also providing valuable support to local residents, according to ISE Area Rep Heidi Cser.
The benefits of the clean-up were far-reaching, she said. In addition to improving the trail, students, families, and member of the community were provided a valuable bonding opportunity. That’s what ISE and Project HELP are all about.
“Project HELP was established on ISE’s belief that volunteering is important for our exchange students, so they can develop technical, social, and academic skills that couldn’t be learned in a classroom environment,” Cser said.
Events like these also place students in situations that force cooperation and communication in a friendly, appreciative environment, which makes learning and building relationships much easier.
“Our cultural exchange programs build new friendships and empower families around the world to make a global impact, and enrich local communities, while preparing the leaders of tomorrow to be responsible global citizens,” she said.
Through Project HELP, students are taught the importance of giving back — especially to the places where they stay or live. The program also provides valuable insight into how Americans take so much pride in helping and supporting others, keeping their country beautiful, and finding a sense of accomplishment in those duties.
“It feels rewarding when you believe you have made a difference,” Cser said. “These are all things we hope the students will learn and take back with them to their home countries.”
Project HELP also allows students to connect with one another. A large part of the ISE experience, after all, hinges on student-to-student contact. They’re here not only to discover and learn about America – its people, its culture, its cities — but also the world as a whole.
“Watching how the students from different countries interacted and got to know one another while making a difference in their community [is amazing],” she said. “It’s pretty cool how they are sharing this journey abroad together, yet have such different experiences. They are creating friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Cser said she hopes that Project HELP will continue to grow and draw support from ISE students and host families, as well as members of the Sacramento community. One day, she said, she envisions Project HELP to be a household name, spreading across the United States.
Project HELP will next assist with the Sacramento Jingle Bell Run, on December 9, which supports the Arthritis Foundation. Students and families will cheer on participating runners and walkers along the route.