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’s been said that those responsible for ISE’s 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’s 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’s leaders. This award is presented to a member of ISE’s 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’s Spirit Award Recipient: Julie Maes
“We decided to award Julie with this year’s 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.” Wayne Brewer, CEO
Julie Maes, Regional Manager of ISE’s Central Region, has been with ISE since it’s 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.
“I 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.” – 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.
“I 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.” says Julie.
Julie also shared some advice for families thinking about hosting a student.
“Just do it! If for some reason it doesn’t work out, we will be here for you to help resolve any issues or move the student. Just remember, these students aren’t guests – they’re members of the family.”
Julie has also gained some incredibly valuable insights to share with new members of ISE’s field staff.
“Always be positive and patient. Enter each day with a positive thought, and focus on what there is to be grateful for. Remember that you’re the student’s 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!”
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 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.