2008/2009: EF threatens student with jail

Extract of the story of one Pedro Acevedo of Venezuela and his experiences with EF Foundation. The entire exchange may be read here

My name is Pedro Acevedo, I’m from Caracas, Venezuela, and I’m currently an exchange student in Southaven, Mississippi, with the company EF, also known as the Education First. During this year, I have been target of several irregularities and injustices from EF part, making this year extremely hard to endure. At the moment, i find myself in a hurry, and i dire need of help. …

… Tonight I was approached by Emily Force, my area representative, from the EF company, and i was told that tomorrow, Wednesday may 13th, i was scheduled to leave at noon, and that she was to pick me up at 9 am. She said that the department of state had “said” that i had to go home no matter what, and that otherwise i was going to get in “big trouble”. She put me on the phone with a woman named Susan, “a lady” from EF, and i was told by her that my requests of staying longer were just going to be ignored, and that i shouln’t keep asking for it, and that they didnt needed “valid reasons” to send me home. I was told that if i don’t get on a plane tomorrow morning, my j1 visa was going to be removed and i was gonna be forced to leave, no matter what. I was told that i could be “Taken” to the airport without my things if necessary, like some kind of criminal. My constant requests for reasons from them to want my early depart, are ignored. …

This is coming to me as a shock since i wasnt informed of a time, i wasnt given a ticket, they kept me in the shadows until hours before the supposed leaving time. … my natural parents, not only they dont want me to leave, but they don’t even know if they could pick me up at any random time, given the short notice. My host family have approved my stay, and they want me to stay the remaining 2 weeks. … I’m being told that if i refuse to leave at the time they want me to, i could even go to jail. I don’t understand how this can be possible. Please, any assistance on this matter will be greatly appreciated.


2008: AYUSA refused student contact with sick mother

All of the exchange organizations send their students warning letters/probation letters/agreements that make a case against the exchange students. At times these letters reflect reality and sometimes they illustrate how dangerous it is for company representatives to be good friends of host families.

In this case, there are two letters from AYUSA that demand the exchange student sign. As punishment they take away all electronic devices from the student. At the time the student’s mother had contracted cancer and the student needed to be in contact with her. Yet the student had not been allowed to speak with her for more than a month. AYUSA were aware of the situation. He was living with AYUSA regional representative, Norma Latini. Below is an extract of the communications between CSFES and the US Department of State, along with the warning letters:

The mother of a foreign exchange student from Montenegro is suffering from cancer and contacted this child protection advocacy group for help.

Her son, … has not been allowed to speak with his natural mother for over a month.

October 15, 2008 Probation Letter (see below) issued to her son by student’s placement agency, “Your computer and cell phone use has been terminate indefinitely.

Natural mother reported that her son’s Host Mother, AYUSA Regional Director, Norma Latini, … has confiscated his cell phone.

This family has spent approximately $10,000 for their son to come live his dream; live a year in America. Her son is being returned home early on November 3. …

Probation Letter:

Oct 15th, 20008

xxxx (348772)

15101 Woodson Street
Overland Park, KS  66223
Dear xxxx,

I recently received reports that (brief description of the behavior). The purpose of this letter is to inform you are officially on probation with AYUSA for the remainder of the year and to clarify with you what we expect of you as an AYUSA student. Failure to make an effort to (refer to the rule violation) could result in your dismissal form the AYUSA program.

It has been reported to me that:

You recently posted 2 exchange students on YouTube making discriminatory and inappropriate comments about each student on the video. You added personal information about the students which could be detrimental to their relationships at school and their personal well being.

You continue to transfer the blame to someone else for all of your personal infractions. ” Fadi has too much drama.”  “Norma did not have to tell Mary Lou.”

You say, “it is a joke,  just a joke” about serious violations of rules and disrespect you have shown to others.

You have violated Host Family rules and the personal privacy of others.

Because this behavior is considered unacceptable, you will be placed under close supervision by your local AYUSA representative, Tracy Ellenz, who will look for an improvement in your behavior and actions. Probation is a step before dismissal, meaning that AYUSA is giving you a chance to demonstrate a successful program experience.

As an AYUSA student, it is your responsibility to follow program rules and procedures. You were selected for this program because we believe that you have the maturity and capability to deal with the demands of a year in the United States.

xxxx, you must work very hard to prove that you should remain on the AYUSA program. In order to continue to be an AYUSA student you must meet the following requirements:

Your computer and cell phone use has been terminated indefinitely.

You will take responsibility for your own actions and take the consequences.

No more jokes, or what you consider jokes on anyone.

Respect others’ privacy and listen to staff and host family when they tell you that you are being disrespectful to teachers and other.  Change your disrespectful behavior to others upon the request.

An addendum may follow after investigation into the YouTube videos by authorities.

AYUSA expects that you will take this probation notice very seriously and will make strides toward changing your attitude and behavior and completing a successful year in the U.S. We anticipate that you will act, for the remainder of your stay, in a manner befitting an AYUSA student and a junior ambassador of Montenegro.  After reading this letter, please sign the copy enclosed and mail it back to me at the following address by October 20th, 2008.

Mary Lou Dunekacke
Regional Manager
491 32nd Rd
Rising City, NE  68658

I have read and understood this Probation Letter

_____________________________                          _________________________
(Student’s Name)                                             (Date)

AYUSA International
Mary Lou Dunekacke (Regional Manager)


Zanka Samardzic
Jenna DeFabio (HQ)
Tracy Ellenz (CR)
Norma Latini (RD)

M( 17 )      9* AICEE-SM 348772

Dear xxxx,

I recently received reports from AYUSA staff regarding the following

  • You have told others that you have lost 22 pounds in the USA.
  • You have told others that you were made to go to church.
  • You have demanded the food of your native country, not eating the food of your host family. In the meantime, you have ordered delivery pizza and chocolate dunkers on at least 10 occasions after the host family’s meal.
  • You act distant to relatives and friends of the host family when visiting, even though you were explained this and your host mom has a code word for you.  You said you do not think you are disrespectful.
  • You have refused to wash your clothes and wear clean clothing.
  • You spend hours on your Playstation, then ask for  help with your homework late at night.
  • You are talking to your natural mom frequently on your international cell phone and reporting to staff that she has contradicting reports about your issues.

Consequently, the purpose of this letter is to inform you that you are officially on warning with AYUSA and to clarify with you what we expect of you as an AYUSA student.  Failure to make an effort to change your behavior/attitude will result in being placed on probation with the AYUSA program.

As an AYUSA student, it is your responsibility to follow program rules and procedures as part of having a successful year abroad.  I realize that adjusting to a new situation can be challenging.  The following are suggestions on what you can do to show that you are serious about having a successful experience on the AYUSA program:

  • You will follow any and all rules of your host family
  • You will give accurate accounts to others.
  • You will read the in your student booklet pages 2-25.
  • You will report to your representative, Tracy Ellenz as to what you have read.
  • You will discontinue ordering from pizza delivery and try to adjust to American food and the special cooking of your host family.
  • Your host mom has a code word for you when you are acting disrespectful,  she will use it and you will stop your behavior. You will act respectful to teachers and  others.
  • You will wash your clothes and wear clean clothing at all times.
  • You will limit your time on Playstation until all your homework is finished, the time limits will be set as needed by your host mom.
  • Limit calls from home to once every two weeks.

Your local AYUSA representative, Tracy Ellenz, is here to support you and will closely supervise you over the next 4 weeks. She will observe your attitude and effort weekly in making the suggested changes listed above.  On October 2, 2008 Tracy will talk with you to check on your progress.  If, at this time, reports indicate that you have not made any changes or your behavior has worsened, you will be placed on probation.

xxxx you were selected for this program because we believe that you have the maturity and capability to deal with the demands of a year in the United States.  AYUSA expects that you will take this warning letter very seriously and will make strides toward changing your attitude and behavior and completing a successful year in the U.S.  We anticipate that you will act, for the remainder of your stay, in a manner befitting an AYUSA student and a junior ambassador of Montenegro. After reading this letter, please sign the copy enclosed and mail it back to Mary Lou Dunekacke at the following address by September 14, 2008.

Mary Lou Dunekacke
AYUSA Regional Manager
491 32nd Rd.
Rising City,NE  68658
Fax:  402-542-2277

I have read and understand this Warning Letter.

_______________________________                  _______________
(Student Name)                                         (Date)

(Student Comment)                                                                                                                 

Zanka Samardzic
Jenna DeFabio(HQ)
Tracy Ellenz
Norma Latini

People to People Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit

01/29/2008 | ConsumerAffairs |  People to People News

By Lisa Wade McCormick

Tyler Hill (Family photo)

Sheryl Hill hugged her 16-year-old son a little tighter — and a littler longer than usual — shortly before he boarded a plane last summer and took off on his much anticipated People to People Student Ambassador trip to Japan.

The Mound, Minnesota, woman took a mental picture of their last moments together at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport recalling every detail of the excitement in her son’s big brown eyes, his brilliant smile, and even the burgundy polo shirt and khaki pants he wore on that June 16, 2007, day.

Sheryl and her husband had worried about sending their son, Tyler — who had Type 1 diabetes and complex migraine headaches — on this People to People excursion.

But the travel organization that touts its ties to President Dwight D. Eisenhower convinced her that it had a solid safety record and a 24-hour response team that could handle any medical emergency.

That promise sealed the deal. It’s the reason Sheryl and Allen Hill let Tyler join his friends on the trip overseas.

Now that promise is at the heart of a wrongful death suit filed on Monday in Minnesota’s Hennepin County District Court.

The lawsuit alleges the organization and its delegation leaders refused to get Tyler the medical attention he requested and that his June 29, 2007, death in Tokyo is the result of their negligence.

But thirteen days before this tragedy — as Tyler and his friends said goodbye to their families in the states — Sheryl’s thoughts focused on how much this journey meant to her son.

“This was the most excited we’d ever seen him,” she says of Tyler, a history buff who was born on the anniversary of D-Day. “He dreamed of going to Japan.”

During their bittersweet farewell at the airport, Sheryl says Tyler — who had “dominated” his diabetes since its onset at age five — assured her that he’d be fine.

“He told me not to worry. Then he picked me up, did a backwards dip with me, and said ‘I love you momI’m going to make your proud of me.’


Are P2P part of President Eisenhower’s programs?

2007: ASSE blames student for problem-family

Sometimes students are placed with host-families that are trouble. One of the things that happen to the students if they complain about their situation is that, if they are lucky, get re-located, or unlucky, get sent back to their home countries. The below example shows the latter:

Regarding ASSE International participant:  Marc Jaubert of FRANCE

Dear Ms. Melofchik, Ms. Dickerson, Ms. Findlay, Ms. Martin and Ms. Lawrence:

Marc Jaubert of France left Knoxville, Tennessee on August 25, 2007 and is currently living with host family:

Stuart and Heidi Jackson
128 N. Van Brant Blvd.
Kansas City, MO  64123

It has been reported to CSFES by ASSE International representative Amber Wallen that Marc has been crying uncontrollably since being placed in this home and feels unsafe in the neighborhood.  Amber Wallen’s contact information:  home telephone:  865-947-2823.

Marc Jaubert’s ASSE International area representative in Missouri is:  Christina Evans, telephone:  816-617-5173.

Last week, Ms. Evans gave an ultimatum to Marc that he needs to adjust or he will be sent back home.

Please be advised that on Tuesday, September 4, ASSE International is repatriating Marc Jaubert.

At approximately 8:20 am on Monday, September 3, ASSE International Regional Director Shannon Cochran will remove Marc Jaubert from the Jackson residence and will depart Missouri to France on Tuesday, September 4.

Note the names of former exchange students who were also not able to continue to reside in this residence Marc was placed:

  • Marianne of Norway
  • Rosario of Italy

Please be informed that a student from the Czech Republic has already been selected to be placed in the above-referenced residence.

It is an obvious pattern to blame the student for the placement breakdown.  This is not what the natural parents agreed to when they sent their son/daughter to the United States.


Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
www.csfes.org / 866-471-9203

ASSE: Thai student arrived in the US without a school or a permanent host family

Dear Ms. Melofchik, Ms. Dickerson, Ms. Findlay, Ms. Martin and Ms. Lawrence:

Please be advised that ASSE International participant Ravee Suksawat remains in Tennessee without a permanent host family; and remains without a high school to attend.

Mr. and Mrs. Wilburn of Knoxville, Tennessee have hosted Ravee Suksawat for the ESL program and have grown very fond of him.

ASSE International provided Mrs. Wilburn the contact information for Ravee’s next host family for the academic year; a Larry and Janifer Bell of Penokee, Kansas.

On Sept. 1, 2007, Mrs. Wilburn telephoned Mrs. Bell to introduce herself and confirm that Ravee would be on a flight from Tennessee to Kansas departing at 5:44 am the following morning.

Mrs. Bell responded to Mrs. Wilburn that she didn’t know that she and her husband had been accepted, assigned a student to host – or anything.  This concerned Mrs. Wilburn who contacted her local ASSE coordinator Ms. Amber Wallen.  Ms. Wallen suggested that Mrs. Wilburn of Tennessee telephone CSFES.

Mrs. Wilburn decided against Ravee boarding the flight to Kansas the following morning.

I would like to provide you with the following contact information:

Mrs. Theresa Wilburn:  865-922-1858      Tennessee

Mrs. Janifer Bell:              785-421-4118      Kansas

Mrs. Wilburn spoke with Laura Johnson of ASSE International of California.  Mrs. Johnson’s focus was how long ASSE has been in business.  Mrs. Johnson’s focus was how “very reputable” ASSE is” and finally, Mrs. Johnson’s response to Mrs. Wilburn was, “I don’t know why Mrs. Bell said that.”

Kansas’ ASSE area representative, Mr. Ron Fontenot can be reached at 785-737-4951.  It is Mr. Fontenot whose name is listed at Ravee’s ASSE area representative on the ASSE Host Family Placement Form.

When I spoke with Mr. Fontenot; his response was that ASSE’s Valerie Kampfer (785) 266-2715 tells him that ‘this is the way it is supposed to be done.’

While these ASSE representatives appear to focus the blame on the neighboring ASSE representative, the fact remains that Ravee continues to live in Tennessee without a permanent host family or secured high school to attend.

Ravee has contacted his mother in Thailand.  She paid $300 for Ravee to fly to Kansas and also concerned.

Thank you for your immediate attention that this matter deserves.


Danielle Grijalva, Director

Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
www.csfes.org / 866-471-9203

ASSE: Three students without permanent host-families

Dear Danielle,

I confirmed that the following two Thai students do not have a permanent family as of yet. I am unsure if the third student has a permanent family or not.  I’ve been out of touch with her for a week.  I’m including their ASSE IDs in case they are helpful.

3 thai students

You may also want to talk to Ms. Syracuse and Ms. Costuros.  I have heard that these women have felt pressured into keeping their students beyond the 30 days they agreed to.  In fact, the Donelson’s asked all the host families to sign the attached document without providing them a copy to keep. It was received as attachment by some host families, however, some of the host families were elderly persons and unlikely online or computer literate. I have heard that the Donelson’s then told these women that by signing this paper they agreed to keep the students for as long as it takes to find a host family.  If you read the agreement, it says nothing like that.

ASSE: Host-family and exchange student needs ignored

I am a host parent for a Thai student who has been with us since 8/25/07.  My family and I are new to the exchange program, and this is our first exchange hosting experience.  I can tell you that I have not been pleased with the experience thus far, primarily due to the inadequacy of the agency we hosted through – ASSE.

First, our student arrived on 8/25 and was met at the airport by my family—there was no ASSE rep to be found.  Not only that, we have yet to receive a call, visit, or other communication from a local rep for ASSE.  I have complained to Ms. Helga Brandt (Western Regional person at ASSE), only to be quoted about minimum State Department requirements and that ASSE was not in violation of any of them.  From day one, our student has shown a bare minimum of English speaking and communicating capability. We were told by her high school that unless she raised her ability to a minimum level, she would be removed from school per the school district’s policy.  I voiced our concerns to Ms. Brandt and was told that our student had passed a ESL test (46 scored with 45 being a passing grade) and she sent me a PDF of a scanned test score sheet which had nothing more than multiple choice bubbles filled in.  I explained to her that a multiple choice test answer sheet does not constitute a minimum capability, and she replied that ASSE was not in violation of anything.

I am not happy with the way ASSE has handled our situation thus far.  ASSE tells me that our student has a local rep, though none of us has yet to meet him/her.  Last night our student tells me that there are 5 exchange students in New Mexico that she went to English camp with that do not have host families or a school to attend.  She has been receiving frantic phone calls from them since Saturday to ask for help in locating host families.

I find it appalling that a local rep was not present at the airport when our student arrived, and has yet to call us or our student.  I have spoken to other host families that have hosted through Rotary International, and they tell me a whole different story of what a wonderful experience their hosting is.  One gentleman and his family have hosted 27 kids over the years.  In the span of 4 short weeks,  have been soured by our experience and will not host again

Dr. Peter C. Riley

Use appropriately / give credit where due

%d bloggers like this: