Wendy, from China, is a Sophomore in high school in Tennessee and a second-year PSE student.

Wendy made an impression on her teachers, peers and community from the time she first arrived on the PSE program last year. In fact, she was featured in a blog post her Freshman year for her accomplishments, which you can read about at:  https://pse-edu.org/a-stage-from-which-to-view-the-world/

This time, we are recognizing Wendy for receiving a prestigious award from her school, the Father Black Award.

At the end of each year, teachers nominate and select five Freshmen whom they consider to be the top students in the class. These students must be outstanding academically, have strong character and leadership, and be committed to serving others.

The award is named for Father James Black, who was a priest, teacher, and administrator at Father Ryan from 1971-1984. He loved Freshmen and wanted to recognize them for leadership, character, service, and academic accomplishments. The school has been recognizing Freshmen through the Father Black Honor Society and Father Black Award since 1985.

In 2020, Wendy was one of the five students in the Class of 2023 to receive this top honor. She was very surprised and honored to receive such a prestigious award.

“I didn’t even know there was such an award! I was shocked and I still cannot believe it. I thought that the extra effort I put in during Freshman year was not going to show its short-term benefits. I’m very glad that it did,” says Wendy.

Wendy has put in a great deal of effort to succeed academically and to get involved in extra-curricular activities since arriving to Tennessee. This year, she has kept busy playing on the soccer team and participating on the Science Olympiad team.

This is in addition to her continued participation in Debate events such as Congress in Speech. Wendy reflects that her participation in Debate has helped her to develop and improve her leadership skills, which has transferred to other activities she has been involved in.

“We held a Science Club this year and I’m the main student leader. I’m also serving on the school’s antiracism student committee and am very much looking forward to helping out on that topic,” Wendy shares.

Wendy also ran for the Coordinator position for Oak House, Father Ryan’s new house system, and even filmed a campaign video. As one can imagine, she was thrilled after being elected for the position by her peers.

In addition to everything else, Wendy’s humanitarian efforts are in full force. She recently surpassed her $300 fundraising goal for the Relay for Life, a fund-raising event for cancer treatment.

Outside of school and activities, Wendy is a loving daughter to her host mother and caring sister to her host brother. She enjoys her host family and appreciates their consistent support.

“I like my host family a lot. My first year in the U.S. was very tough. They are always there for me if I ever feel down.”

Her host mother, Jamie, shares a deep connection with Wendy.

“Wendy has truly become like a daughter to me and like a sister to my son. We have formed a strong connection that allows us to be unapologetically authentic, without fear of judgment. We sincerely enjoy spending time together,” Jamie shares.

Jamie describes Wendy as an energetic, highly intelligent, and fun-loving young lady.

“Two of her most endearing qualities are her feisty personally and sweet spirit.  She has a natural curiosity for scientific knowledge and is most passionate about physics,” she shares.

The family has engaged in many fun experiences and activities with Wendy, forming lasting memories.

“We have played miniature golf, ridden go-karts, visited the Tennessee State Museum, walked the scenic trail at Radnor Lake, gone hiking at Burgess Falls State Park, conquered zip-lining in the Canopy Challenge at Falls Creek Falls State Park, celebrated Wendy’s 16th birthday at an authentic Asian restaurant, and lots of other neighborhood fun like playing basketball and tennis, riding bikes, and sitting around the fire pit with friends,” Jamie shares.

One of Wendy’s most memorable experiences with her host family was participating in a zip line challenge.

Wendy explains how her exchange experience has changed her as a person:

“I have learned how to tolerate pain and loneliness, become more independent, and use the resources around me. I have also learned to find happiness in the simple things in life. Even more, I have learned to stay calm during the most uncertain moments of my life.”

Cheryl, Wendy’s local coordinator, describes her as a self-starter, motivated, optimistic, and outgoing person. She commends Wendy on her resiliency.

“Wendy has done so well with all the challenges that have come to her since she has been on the program. She adapts easily to situations and is a positive person to those around her.”

This being their first time hosting an international exchange student, Jamie reflects on how it has impacted their family:

“This hosting experience has reminded me of the power of love and acceptance. I opened up my home, not knowing who might be at the receiving end of my offer. However, the realization that there was a child, so far from home, away from parents and all things familiar, touched my heart. Now that I have had the privilege of getting to know Wendy, my heart is full!”

Wendy looks forward to the remainder of the school year and everything else she hopes to accomplish. She applied to the Vanderbilt talented youth program and the governor’s school and hopes to be accepted into both. She is also hoping to earn 60 more service hours before the end of the school year (she currently has 10).

Jamie says that it has been an absolute pleasure to host Wendy and looks forward to making more memories with her.

“I think we’ve all learned a lot from each other, and I’m honored that she intends to remain in our home throughout her next two years of high school.”

Wendy’s future looks bright, as she hopes to attend a university that is located in a very busy city. “I’m not sure about the specifics, but I know my degree will relate to math, science, and/or computer science,” she states.

Cheryl closes with this final message for Wendy:

“Wendy, thank you for being such an easy and fun student on our program and for showing all of us the power of being positive and always doing your best!”

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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