Congratulations Nacel Open Door Star, Kathleen Brands

Kathy Brands and her exchange students at the MOA

Nacel Open Door (NOD) is excited to introduce one of our amazing international student exchange host parents and NOD Stars, Kathleen Brands, of Moline, Illinois! Kathy and her family are hosting two students this year, Benjamin from Germany and Nicolas from Spain.

To help everyone get to know each other better and to come together as a family, Kathy instituted a “Happiness Buddy” program. The way it works is that everyone

Nico, Ben, Louis and Jeffrey in Chicago
Nico, Ben, Louis and Jeffrey in Chicago

in the family draws a name from a hat, and for that week their focus is to think of the other person and do nice things that will make them happy. The goal is to keep their Happiness Buddy a secret, so they have to occasionally work with other family members in order to surprise their Buddy. Some of the things that family members have done for each other include:

  • Leaving candy on their pillow
  • Washing their bed sheets
  • Making a favorite drink
  • Buying a special ice cream treat
  • Making their bed

Another tradition that Kathy does is to regularly have a family Round Table. These meetings give everyone in the family the opportunity to share ideas, concerns and information so they are all aligned. This helps everyone to have a voice and to feel connected. It also can be a great chance to play a family game together once the meeting is done!

A colleague shared that Kathy has a “Pay it forward” Facebook site where she connects people in need with people and services (or items) who can help. There is no charge to those in need, and sometimes exchange students help with this voluntary community service. Kathy shared that “Ben and Nico already participated in Trunk or Treat. We gave away gently used items, candy and treats. We also gave away information about exchange programs.” 

Kathy Brands and her international student taking part in Trunk or Treat for Halloween
Kathy Brands and her international student taking part in Trunk or Treat for Halloween

Kathy shared the following thoughts on her experience so far: “All of the students are so brave to take part in this once in a lifetime experience. Students – please come with an open mind and take advantage of all your opportunities to see and do things. Your time here will go very fast. Unpack your heart and let's have fun.” 

Kathy's favorite quote
Kathy's favorite quote

Kathy is also a Local Representative for NOD, helping us to place international students in her local community. Thank you, Kathy, for being a NOD star and a standout U.S. Ambassador!

Nacel Open Door is grateful to Kathy and all of our host families who welcome our students into their homes and make our international student exchanges work so well! To learn more about being a Host Family or Local Representative visit