OCEAN CITY – Students from around the world came together to eat dinner at the Holy Savior Church parish center on Tuesday evening all made possible through the Council for Educational Travel, U.S.A. (CETUSA) of Ocean City.
Anne Marie Conestabile is CETUSA’s Ocean City regional manager and said she expected at least 300 students to the dinner out of the around 3,000 students in Ocean City this summer.
CETUSA of Ocean City receives many volunteers from many churches in the area. The volunteers were busy welcoming students as well as serving food and keeping everybody organized. Conestabile said every volunteer pitches in through their time, financially, or with gifts.
“We have a lot of senior citizens that find this a most worthwhile thing to do,” she said. “One of the things I really love is when our volunteers mingle with them and get some good stories.”
Volunteer Ruth Minnich said she and her husband, Jack, just love the students and their different customs. Jack Minnich works in the CETUSA Ocean City office and even volunteers to drive the students to the doctors or whatever other services they may need. He said it is in his nature, that he just likes to help other people but he also spent a good portion of his life traveling to most of the countries where the students come from and feels he can relate to them and their customs.
“This early in the summer they need a little help,” Jack Minnich said. “What a great time of their life.”
Another volunteer, Dennis Curry, said he taught high school for 40 years and likes to continue communicating with young adults.
“I just love to talk to kids,” he said. “It’s interesting to find out about where they come from.”
Viktoria Ivanova from Slovakia is enjoying her second summer here in Ocean City as part of CETUSA. Her first summer she worked in the CETUSA office with Conestabile and this summer she works at the front desk at the Castle in the Sand.
“I have a lot of friends here and during the summer it is a really awesome place to be,” she said. “There is nothing like this in Slovakia. They [volunteers] are wonderful here and they are helping, they aren’t getting anything for this.”
Through her travels to Ocean City she has also been able to visit other destinations such as New York, Washington D.C, and California.
Conestabile becomes familiar with every student that joins the program every summer. She was able to look around the room and start listing off the countries each student came from by just looking at them. The countries included Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Italy, China, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Ireland, Russia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Korea and even the United States. Most of the students are in college, but Conestabile said CETYSA even receives students in younger levels all the way down to elementary school who travel with a guardian.
Besides a free dinner students had the opportunity to select items from a wide selection of free donations that included; clothing, accessories, small household appliances, food, blankets, pillows, and other daily items. There was even a raffle being held to win phone minute vouchers so the students could call home.
According to their website, CETUSA is a non-profit, global exchange organization dedicated to helping people from different cultures develop more compassion and understanding for one another.
Since 1995, together with international partners and academic institutions from over 50 countries, CETUSA has helped tens of thousands of students, families, young professionals and employers benefit from the integration of diverse cultures.