HELPing Out on the American River Parkway

Foreign exchange students volunteering for highway clean up

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 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. Exchange students from Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain collected 1,300 pounds of garbage,




“We all walked away feeling proud and happy that we were able to make the area along the American River Parkway trail a little cleaner for the community to enjoy,” she said.

The benefits of the clean-up were far-reaching, she said. In addition to improving the trail, exchange 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  place foreign exchange students in situations that force cooperation and communication in a friendly, appreciative environment. That 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.  How they keep their country beautiful, and find 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 foreign exchange 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 exchange students and host families.   Hopefully it will gain support from members of the Sacramento community. One day, she said, she envisions Project HELP to be a household name, spreading across the United States.

For that vision to be achieved, Project HELP will continue to forge its trail, one step at a time. It will be always looking for ways to support the city.

Project HELP will next assist with the Sacramento Jingle Bell Run, on December 9, which supports the Arthritis Foundation. Exchange students and families will cheer on participating runners and walkers along the route.

We invite you to read more about hosting a foreign exchange student. If you have specific questions about hosting, check out our host family FAQ page. You can also read testimonials from our past and current host families. When you feel ready, complete our host family interest form and our area representative will get in touch with you.

You can also get involved by joining our team of Area Representatives! Help match host families and exchange students and bring the world closer together, while making a supplemental income.


Global friendship starts with local action. Volunteer to host a student today!


Change the world, one family at a time. Apply to become an ISE Area Representative!


Explore a new culture and experience a new way of life. Become an exchange student!