students shoveling rock while doing community projects

Left to right, Edgar Gustavo Ruano Fajardo, Haruka Ushijima and Geoff Young, assistant lecturer for the CESL program at SIU, shovel rock as they work on land management and trail maintenance at Carbondale Green Earth. Fajardo is a Fulbright student from Guatemala while Ushijima is an international student from Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan. Both are part of the CESL Community Engagement Program.

May 23, 2022

International Fulbright, Japanese students, engage in service projects while at SIU

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A group of 18 international students, including 15 Fulbright Scholars and three Japanese college students from Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan, are visiting Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Center for English as a Second Language to enhance their English skills while also giving their time and energy to help several local service organizations  through the center’s Community Engagement Program.

The students began their three-week outreach effort last week and they will continue their effort through the end of the month. During the engagement program, they are also interacting with community members and organizations in a cross-cultural exchange, according to Bill Hellriegel, director of the center, and Lilia Angel-Post, assistant director.

Their work included visiting Carbondale Green Earth to help with land management and trail maintenance; helping senior citizens with craft projects at the Big Muddy Assisted Living Center in Murphysboro; assisting the Local Women for Change in creating a compost pile for the Red Hen Garden to provide fresh produce to area residents, and sorting and organizing food and clothing for people in need at the Center for Empowerment and Justice.

They have also assisted with a meal at the Herrin House of Hope and provided a time of dance and cultural exchange at the Villas of Holly Brook Herrin retirement and assisted living facility.

Strong CESL program gets worldwide attention

Hellriegel said the students choose to come to SIU for the strength of its Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) program as the Fulbright scholars are already advanced in the language, but seek to improve their skills as they prepare to enter master’s programs throughout the world. The Japanese students are part of an experiential study abroad enhancement. The students have two intensive eight-week language immersion academic programs and the three-week engagement program.

“They enhance their language skills and get to know more about the cultural and the social services in our country which they can then share when they return home. During the final week of the program, they develop and share presentations with their ideas,” Angel-Post said.

Giving continues

The visiting international students will give their time and energy this week at a variety of places including the Brown Bag Concert, the Carbondale Warming Center, the Strong Survivors program, and St. Frances Care animal shelter. Several will also attend a Carbondale city council meeting on Tuesday, May 24.

Media advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the visiting international students’ community service projects and activities planned for this week. They include:

Tuesday, May 24

  • 2 p.m. – Visiting WSIU-TV, Communications Building on the SIU campus, to discuss the differences between the education system in the U.S. and their respective countries.
  • 6 p.m. – Attending a Carbondale city council meeting, Carbondale Civic Center, to observe American government in action.

Wednesday, May 25

  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Helping with the Carbondale Main Street Brown Bag Concert at the Town Square Pavilion.
  • 3 p.m. – Lending a hand at the Carbondale Warming Center, 608 E. College St., by helping organize food, clothing and with other projects.

Thursday, May 26

  • 10 a.m.-noon – Visiting the Frances Care animal shelter, 6228 Country Club Road, Murphysboro, to see how the shelter operates and help walk some of the dogs.
  • 1 p.m. – A group will visit the Strong Survivors exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors and caregivers at Davies Gym, Room 132, on the SIU campus, touring the facilities and doing light exercises similar to those the survivors and caregivers do.

For more information about any of the projects or to make connections with the groups, contact:

Colin Robinson, associate professor of practice, at 618-201-0610 or regarding the visits to WSIU TV, the Carbondale Warming Center or Strong Survivors, or  Geoff Young, assistant lecturer, at 440-409-6860 or about the Brown Bag Concert or St. Francis Care projects.

The students’ volunteerism will continue through the last week of May as well but on a more individual basis. The students will choose projects of particular interest to them to donate their efforts toward.

Participants from numerous countries

The participating students, listed by their home countries, are:


Destin Deoudom


Benit Mbiakolo

Costa Rica

Cristina Morales Sandoval

Dominican Republic

Inmagela Rivas Abreu

El Salvador

Diana Ramirez Segovia


Edgar Gustavo Ruano Fajardo


Iwany Martinez Norales


Siti Hajaroh

Parlaungan Nasution

FNU Riki


Esther Yalma


Nagisa Iwabuchi

Kaito Imanishi

Haruka Ushijima


Mauricio Bahena Garcia


Itamar Harris Bernal


Joao Da Costa Pereira


Linda Montilla Celis

For additional details

Learn more about CESL’s Community Engagement Program by visiting the Facebook page.  For more information about SIU’s CESL program, founded in 1964, visit the website, or call 618-453-2265.