When I arrived at CHCA, I was 14 years old and 6,828 miles out of my comfort zone. I was intimidated, overwhelmed by culture shock, and I thought finding friends was impossible. Student Organized Service (SOS) at CHCA rescued me.
By October of my freshman year, I was reading English picture books to kids in China via WeChat. I chose Serve Cincinnati Schools for my sophomore year J-term where I assisted a second-grade teacher at World Language Academy. I listened to students’ stories, helped them through difficult subjects, and spelled words for their journal entries. Many students wrote stories about their families. They were from Mexico, Russia, Hungary, and other countries. Students wrote about their family, traditions, and the joy of being a kid. Watching them, I learned how to embrace my own identity and culture in a foreign environment.
A few of the students could barely speak English. As an ESL speaker, I wanted to give these kids the opportunities I had when I learned English. When the week ended, I still felt like my mission wasn’t complete. I decided to start uploading English language videos to the SOS YouTube channel so that kids from any school could watch online. Mrs. Hordinski made me an SOS group co-leader, and I devoted the next three years to providing kids with a better education.
“Step out of your comfort zone” is not good advice for a student landing in a foreign country by themselves. My advice: "Reach out for help." Joining my first SOS group was one of the best decisions I made when I arrived at CHCA. It’s okay to be a little scared, or even terrified when you enter a new place, but CHCA has created an environment where everyone loves to welcome new people and cultures into their friend groups. It is through the people I have met on my journey with SOS that I see CHCA as a community with many valued perspectives, some unique, some funny, some surprising, all belonging.
These unique CHCA programs were part of Isabella's story:
About the Author
Isabella Li is a member of the class of 2022 and is a National Merit Semifinalist. She came to CHCA during freshman year as an international student from China. She has been involved in many SOS groups, is an SOS board member, and in college wants to explore her passion for public policy in education and economics. Most Sundays, Izzy spreads love volunteering at the Kids’ Club at Crossroads Church. She is the concert master of CHCA orchestra, loves learning, and thanks her CHCA teachers for their support during her American high school journey.