Lt. John Weinstein, a police lieutenant at one of the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program’s host campuses, has taken on the role of social host for two 2017-2018 CCI participants from Colombia: Camila Colorado and Natalia Martinez.
“NOVA Police Host International Students”
NOVA Police have a two-fold mission at the College: to protect and to serve. Often, people largely associate the former with police. They are less aware of how police serve the community.
NOVA Police do many things to serve the community, such as: training to empower individuals to deter predators and protect themselves against crime; publishing and distribute the Public Safety Newsletter, hosting safety-related events on campus, participating in programs to feed the hungry and giving gifts to children during holidays. This year, NOVA Police have added a new service: an officer is serving as a social host for two international students.
Lt. John Weinstein, who oversees the department’s strategic planning and outreach activities, is hosting two Colombian students: Camila Colorado and Natalia Martinez. When asked what influenced him to serve in this capacity, Weinstein related that as a college student, he spent his junior year in Colombia where he studied at a university. “I was a stranger in a strange land”, Weinstein related. “My Spanish was not that great when I arrived, I didn’t have any friends, and I missed my family. I met a local who kept an eye out for me and this made all the difference in the world. This is my opportunity to give back and help make my students’ experience productive, fun and safe.”
International students reside locally; not with their social hosts. As a social host, Weinstein is obligated to meet with the students monthly to ensure they are well, facilitate resolution of any problems, and show them a bit of America. Weinstein has already met with the students twice on campus and, along with his wife, taken them to “Big Buns Damn Good Burgers” in Ballston.
“The girls said they love hamburgers but had been enjoying them only at McDonalds and Burger King. I figured it was time to introduce a little change in their lives”, Weinstein laughed. Future plans, over and above monthly campus meetings, include a baseball game, a police ride-along, a Thanksgiving meal with family, the Air and Space Museum, and tours of the White House and Capitol.
Their attendance at NOVA is their first time abroad. Camila and Natalia noted it’s difficult to be away from home and how their families play a central role in their lives. “We feel protected, knowing we can call our social host at any time and he’s available to help us”, Natalia said. Camila chimed in “And the fact he’s a police officer makes us feel even safer. It’s easy to be with John and his wife, Audrey, and we can be ourselves with them.” Natalia agreed. “As much as we love being in the United States, going to a new school and using a new language is very challenging, especially without our usual support structure. Our social hosts make it a lot easier to be successful and enjoy our unique experience.”
“Hosting an international student is both fun and rewarding, and I will do it again”, said Weinstein.