Since their inception in 1961, J-1 Cultural Exchange Programs have relied on a special breed of passionate individuals who believe that they can make a difference by positively impacting the lives of young people from around the world. As one of the largest and longest-running sponsors of J-1 exchange, International Student Exchange has had the pleasure of working with thousands of these individuals, who are much more likened to family members than employees. It\u2019s been said that those responsible for ISE\u2019s field efforts negotiate the non-negotiable. They somehow, through their belief and desire to affect positive local and global change, convince people to open their hearts and home to a complete stranger from another country...for free...in an effort to foster international friendship and goodwill. International Student Exchange\u2019s Spirit Award honors these special individuals and recognizes how their continued efforts contribute to our mission of bringing the people of the world closer together and educating tomorrow\u2019s leaders. This award is presented to a member of ISE\u2019s staff to thank them for going above and beyond in their work to promote cultural exchange in their community in their own unique way. This Year\u2019s Spirit Award Recipient: Julie Maes \u201cWe decided to award Julie with this year\u2019s Spirit Award because she really is the embodiment of the ISE of the past and the ISE of the future joining together. She was here at the very start of our organization, and she continues to be a shining light to new and returning staff members and families over 35 years later. Her passion, enthusiasm, humor, and dedication have had a positive impact on countless staff members, students, and host families.\u201d Wayne Brewer, CEO Julie Maes, Regional Manager of ISE\u2019s Central Region, has been with ISE since it\u2019s start in 1982. Over 37 years of experience working in cultural exchange has taught her the importance of these personal interactions with people who come from different cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. \u201cI think cultural exchange is the optimal way to build world peace. Any of these students could end up as a government leader someday...and this experience often prompts students to get involved in leadership positions back home. It contributes to world peace on a local, and global level.\u201d - Julie Maes, on the importance of the cultural exchange program. During her tenure at ISE, she has seen the direct impact that these programs have on the students who participate in them. \u201cI specifically remember one year when I had a Czech student and Serbian student participating in the program together at a time when both of their countries were at war with each other. At the start of the program, they would not interact with each other. By the end of the program, they came together and bonded thanks to their time together in the US.\u201d says Julie. Julie also shared some advice for families thinking about hosting a student. \u201cJust do it! If for some reason it doesn\u2019t work out, we will be here for you to help resolve any issues or move the student. Just remember, these students aren\u2019t guests - they\u2019re members of the family.\u201d Julie has also gained some incredibly valuable insights to share with new members of ISE\u2019s field staff. \u201cAlways be positive and patient. Enter each day with a positive thought, and focus on what there is to be grateful for. Remember that you\u2019re the student\u2019s primary source of support, so remain involved without interfering with their relationship with the host family. And lastly, your tone of voice is important. It can calm even the angriest of phone calls!\u201d On behalf of all the members of ISE, we thank Julie for her years of service to our mission of bringing the people of the world closer together through high school cultural exchange. If you would like to help an exchange students dreams come true, we invite you to read more about\u00a0hosting a foreign exchange student.\u00a0If you have specific questions about hosting, check out our\u00a0host family FAQ page. You can also read\u00a0testimonials from our past and current host families.\u00a0When you feel ready, complete our\u00a0host family interest form\u00a0and our area representative will get in touch with you. You can also get involved by joining our team of Area Representatives!\u00a0Help match host families and exchange students\u00a0and bring the world closer together, while making a supplemental income.