Community Builder: Irmo couple helps give students international experiences

Community Builder: Irmo couple helps give students international experiences
Updated: Feb. 15, 2018 at 8:19 PM EST
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IRMO, SC (WIS) - One Irmo couple is dedicated to giving back to our local schools, and their involvement has led to a partnership between the University of South Carolina and Irmo Middle and High Schools.

"I am too young just to go out by myself," Irmo Middle School 7th grader, Janeigh Nazim-Ebanks said. "So it's kind of exciting for them to come to me and tell me all about it."

The partnership is giving students a chance to experience the world without ever leaving their classroom. It was initiated between USC's International Business School and Irmo Middle and High School three years ago by Sarah Ostergaard and her husband Dr. Dan Ostergaard who is a professor at USC in the International Business School.

"It started with the, 'Let's try this!' and it started with a few teachers and a few students," Sarah said. "Then everyone realized how much fun it is, and how it brings their students to a deeper level."

The classes involved get paired with a college student who is studying abroad, and they have the opportunity to meet that student in person before the students travel across the world. Often times, the USC students will Skype with the classes from the foreign countries they are visiting and answer any questions they may have about their journey.

"Right now it's 29 USC students, all international business majors, spread across both from Irmo High School and Irmo Middle School," added Dan.

Irmo Middle Principal Cassy Paschal says the partnership is enhancing the mission of the international academic magnet.

"I see the student curiosity is starting to grow, and I see their engagement with their learning and actually seeing how they can connect to where they want to go when they get older," Paschal said.

The partnership is just the tip of the Ostergaards involvement in the schools.

"Any of our family nights, our great ideas, our spirit nights… they are advocating for the Irmo schools and the Irmo community," added Paschal. "Their entrenched in everything we do."

The Ostergaards have three sons spread out between the middle and the high school, and Sarah serves as the president of the Irmo High School Foundation.

Because of all of their involvement, Principal Paschal nominated them as a Community Builder, and Matt Mungo with Mungo Homes surprised them with the news while they were speaking to one of the classes at Irmo Middle.

"Dan and Sarah let me interrupt real quick," Mungo said. "I am here because you all have been nominated and chosen as our Community Builder award for all your work with Irmo Middle and High School. Thank you very much for all y'all do!"

The classroom erupted in loud cheers from the students. The Ostergaards were shocked at the honor and say they are humbled. They insist it's not about them, but about the greater community and the students.

"The school and this community is behind all of y'all," Dr. Dan said as he spoke to the students holding his new hard hat. "We want you to go out there and succeed. We want you to go out and see the world and make the world a better place."

The Ostergaard's say their $1000 donation from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation will go to Irmo Middle to start a field trip fund to help ensure students get to go on school field trips.

Do you know someone like the Ostergaards? You can nominate them to be the next Community Builder by clicking here.

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