International Student Safety is a Priority in U.S. Communities
In three American communities, three law enforcement officers are determined to keep visiting cultural exchange students safe. Each of them are making a huge impact on the lives of visiting international students. Their stories are in many ways similar, and all make you feel proud to be an American.
Three remarkable policeman are making a difference in the lives of countless visiting students in U.S. resort towns. They share the goal of keeping visiting students safe, earning their trust, and leaving a positive impression of U.S. law enforcement and American communities.
Ensuring Student Safety in Sandusky, Ohio
Sergeant Ron Snyder of the Sandusky, Ohio police department was initially “skeptical” about his assignment to conduct safety seminars for visiting students. Sergeant Snyder was asked to provide safety instruction and to teach students about local laws so that their program would be a safe and enjoyable one.
Reciprocal Benefits of Cultural Exchange
Sergeant Snyder admits he “was hooked from the first encounter” with the international students. After years of conducting safety seminars for incoming groups of students, he’s learned as much from the students, and they have from him. “In my lifetime, I’ll never have a chance to visit countries like Turkey, China, the Philippines, Ecuador and South Africa.” He says that by interacting with the students, it’s allowed him to understand more about these countries. Sergeant Snyder says he uses humor to put the students at ease and gain their trust. He says the students quickly learn the police are here to protect them.
Bettering Our Country, Bettering Themselves
“We’re bettering our country by welcoming these students,” he says. “Who they are now – lifeguards, housekeepers, hotel staff – is not who they’ll become. They’ll be doctors and leaders. We’re told not to judge a book by a cover. These kids are nice. They are coming here to experience and expand. They want to better themselves.”
Participation Pays Dividends
Sergeant Snyder volunteers his personal time now to support the students, and actively participates in cultural activities, events and outings. He says that while he gets to bring a positive note to the department and the city by his participation, he “gets even bigger dividends.” He hopes that he’s had an impact on at least one visiting student. We’re certain he’s had an impact on hundreds.
Wisconsin Community Supports Visiting Students
Officer Dan Hess of the Lake Delton, Wisconsin police department began supporting visiting student safety 18 years ago. He’s an active participant of a community consortium comprised of city officials, churches, businesses, and citizens that want to ensure the safety and well-being of the thousands of international students who visit and work in their Wisconsin community each year. Their goal is to do “anything they can to make the students time in the U.S. better.”
Creating a Safe Place for International Students
The consortium is focused on ensuring student safety and that they have good housing and working conditions. They also make sure there are plenty of opportunities to participate in cultural events, outings and activities. The consortium works to create an environment so welcoming and safe that students will want to come to their community. “The students won’t come unless they feel safe here,” Officer Hess explains.
The Exchange Visitor Program is Vital to the Community
The community rallies around the students because they play a “vital role” in the community. “I cannot stress how important the program is.” The year round population of their community is around 6,000 people, not all of whom are at an age to work. Local businesses need over 17,000 people during their busy summer season. “Our businesses could not operate without these students.” The community support even provides funding to businesses to build student housing. The dorm-like housing provides a safe environment for the visiting students.
Community Support of Cultural Activities
“We work hard at planning a lot of cultural events,” Officer Hess explains. Employers, church groups and sponsors organize and support fun outings, events, games, movies for the students. “I never miss the cultural events. It’s a great way to for the students to see policemen as people. They use social media to relay to their family and friends at home that we’re here to keep them safe.” Officer Hess wants the students to feel comfortable that they can come to the police for help. “If my son were visiting a foreign country, I would like to think someone would help him, so we treat the students the way we would want our own children to be treated.” Officer Hess has received invitations to visit 15 countries and to stay at the homes of the students he has helped.
Motivated to Make a Difference
The Lake Delton police chief has been very supportive and encouraging of police involvement in the program. “It’s rare in law enforcement that you get an opportunity to see that you’re making a difference,” Officer Hess says. “With this program, you can see you’re making a difference. “I receive more from the students than I’ve ever given. Working with the work and travel students is the favorite part of my job.”
A Texas Town Takes Care of Visiting Students
Sergeant Destin Sims of the Galveston, Texas police department can’t exactly remember how he first came in contact with Alliance Abroad Group, an exchange visitor program sponsor. “They approached me and asked if I’d be willing to do safety briefings for the students when they first arrived,” he says. “Our community depends on these students to help local businesses in the summer, so it’s a win for the community,” he explains. Sergeant Sims teaches basic biking safety, which is a primary mode of transportation for the students, emergency and fire procedures, and explains local laws to make sure the students stay safe and out of trouble.
Sergeant Sims has daughters around the ages of the students. “I try to treat the students like I would want my own child treated.” He observes that while in many ways the students are similar to U.S. teens, he feels they are more focused on providing great customer service. “The students want to do right and do well, and be good stewards. They want to know the rules and follow them. We want them to be safe and enjoy their time here.”
Sergeant Sims also feels supporting the students is great way to show all the positives and educate them about cultural, economic, and geographic realities. “It’s an opportunity to show them what we’re about, what it’s like to be in America, and what it’s like to be in Texas.”
Three Police Officers Share Similar Experiences and Insights…
- Their participation in the program has been personally and professionally rewarding.
- Student safety is the primary purpose of their involvement in the program.
- They feel that cultural exchange students are vital to the communities.
- Their hope is that U.S. law enforcement and U.S. communities will always be viewed as safe harbors for visiting students.
- They have learned much about other cultures and countries, and have formed lasting friendships and connections with students from all over the world.
- Our communities and country are better because of these cultural exchange programs.