By Elyse Voyen, Program Assistant for the Greenheart Club

The 2014 Service Leader Prep Program (SLPP) was a tremendous success. This year, CCI Greenheart hosted students from Germany, Italy and China in our office’s home town, Chicago, IL. The week long program commenced with workshops preparing the students for life as American high school students, and continued on to instill in them an appreciation for service and community development. Each day the students would learn about American culture and volunteerism in our Chicago offices, and after, they would experience these facets of America for themselves by exploring the world class city of Chicago! Together we experienced the majesty that is Chicago from the top of the Hancock tower, sailed along the coast of lake Michigan on the Tall Ship Windy, created vegetable plots in an urban garden, rescued and served food to those living in an urban food desert, and relaxed on the beach while watching jets doing tricks above for the the air show.

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Here are some thoughts from Noah, a student from Germany who participated on the program:

I am really really happy that I did the week in Chicago. You learn a lot of stuff for your year in the USA, you meet a lot of cool people from other countries, and you have a lot of fun with your group! The week was a good mix of fun (volunteering, sightseeing…) and we learned practical stuff at Greenheart’s offices. We learned how to behave in our new home, how we can get involved by volunteering,  and a lot of other important things. One afternoon, after learning about volunteerism at the Greenheart offices, we volunteered at the Food Circle. We gave people who can´t buy enough food, vegetables, bread, fruits and other food. For me it was very exciting to see how happy the people were when they received the food. I wholeheartedly recommend the week’s orientation for preparing students for their year abroad!

Franziska, also from Germany, had further observations from the week:

Chicago was one of the best weeks so far in my life. Aside from seeing the beautiful and amazing city, I also had the chance to get to know a lot of people like other exchange students and the staff from CCI Greenheart, who help to make the dreams of an exchange year come true! I would recommend this to everyone who is doing a year abroad. I felt really prepared after that week because I learned a lot about volunteering, myself, and how I could or should behave in different situations while being in the USA. The Service Leader Prep Program also helped me to get used to the English language. In my opinion, the program in Chicago had the perfect balance between learning, working and having fun!

All in all, everyone had a wonderful time learning about Chicago, themselves, and American culture. As a chaperon, it was extremely rewarding to learn about life in Germany, Italy, and China. These students inspire me to continue working in international exchange and teaching youth. It was incredible to see the difference in confidence and fluency with which these students spoke and acted by the end of the week. I can’t wait to hear about all the exciting experiences they continue to have throughout their time in America!

Check out these amazing pictures form the SLPP week. Some of the best shots were taking by the German student Arne, who has quite a talent for photography.