by Marketing Manager Lindsey Klyn
The call to open your home and family to someone new isn’t for everyone. But for the Vander Molen family, this call clearly presented itself with the adoption of their son Ty in 2004 and came again for the 2016-2017 school year from the International Student Program (ISP).
ISP started at Pella Christian High School in 2012. The program focuses on two primary purposes: providing an international student with a Christian-based world class education and exposing American students to people who are different from them. This year, 24 international students merged into small-town Iowa families through Pella Christian High School.
“We completed paperwork and home visits to help determine if we’d be a good fit for an international student,” shared Doctor of Physical Therapy and ISP Host Troy Vander Molen. “ISP Coordinator Cindy Nikkel wasn’t just concerned about finding an appropriate home and family for the international students; Cindy does an excellent job of matching the students to the family dynamic as well.”
From the information gathered, Nikkel decided to place Roger, a native of Shanghai, China, in the Vander Molen home. Roger arrived in America just a couple weeks after his 14th birthday to begin his freshman year of high school. Roger knew little about Iowa before coming, other than that his parents promised he would be able to eat foods other than just corn.
Like others ISP students, Roger knew he would need to adjust to a new culture, learn a new language, and further his education. However, he wasn’t prepared for how much he would enjoy the freedom he would experience in America.
This freedom revealed itself in several ways. Roger enjoyed picking courses that interested him at school; participating in extra-curricular activities like basketball, band, and choir; and having more free time to play video games. Despite the joy Roger discovered in this freedom, his greatest joy came from living in a home with siblings.
“Because of the one-child policy, I haven’t had a chance to have any siblings in China,” shared Roger. “I got to have siblings here which I enjoyed. You can always find someone to play with.”
Roger didn’t just win over his siblings in the past year though. The Vander Molens noticed how his friendly and outgoing personality won over so many students every time they attended a school event with him as a chorus of “Roger!” came from all the students he’s come to know.
As the school year comes to an end, the Vander Molen family and Roger are preparing for this adventure to come to a close with gratitude for the experience and newfound strength from going out of their comfort zone.
“This experience has taught us to be flexible and intentional,” shared ISP Host Stephanie Vander Molen. “Adding a fourth child to our family unit was challenging, and it has taken the entire family’s involvement and support to make it work as well as it has. We have had to be intentional in structuring our time and continuing to focus on the unique gifts and personalities of each of our children. It has been a good and rewarding experience for our family, and it is one we will certainly consider experiencing again in the future.”
Many people believe that you need to have kids at Pella Christian or be a Pella Christian supporter to host an international student, but that’s not the case. As this program continues to grow, ISP is in constant need of local families who are looking for a unique experience like this. If you are interested in finding out more about the rewarding process of becoming an ISP host family, reach out to Cindy Nikkel, the ISP Coordinator at Pella Christian High School. She can be contacted by calling Pella Christian High School at 641-628-4440 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.