Category Archives: Spotlights

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Giving back: New Oasis, the Virginia Beach community and the Morrills

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HERNDON, VA. — In June of 2012, Kristy Morrill, Virginia Beach student coordinator for New Oasis International Education, learned that her sister, Kendra Atherton, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of unknown primary site (ACUPS), a life-threatening cancer.

After her diagnosis, Atherton started her battle with vengeance. A personal trainer by trade, she continued to eat healthy and inspire others as a positive role model. A devoted mother and friend, Atherton always tried to be there for everyone.

Atherton passed away on November 24, 2012.

A year later, Morrill and her family created an event, “K5K: A Run for Kendra,” to honor Athernon’s legacy, while giving back to the community and helping those who are also overcoming losses to cancer. The event raises funds for students at local high schools who have lost family members to cancer.

According to the K5K official website, since the founding of the run, it has raised more than $25,000 to support students in the Virginia Beach community.

Now, three years later, in 2015, the event is an annual occurrence in the Virginia Beach area. When New Oasis staff learned about the event from a casual conversation with Morrill, they immediately decided to form a team and sponsor the event.

On Saturday, Nov. 21, a team of staff from New Oasis will join Kristy and her family in running the 5K along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk to lift up one of its own in the spirit of community.

“I can’t tell you how much it means that New Oasis is sponsoring the event,” Morrill said.

Morrill works for New Oasis as a student coordinator in the Virginia Beach area where she assists international students at Cape Henry Collegiate School with their immersion into an American education system.

“Morrill is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet,” said Tammy Becker, homestay regional manager for New Oasis.

“She is always putting others first, and goes out of her way to provide nurturing care to every one of her students. When we were presented with the opportunity to assist a new staff member, we didn’t hesitate to act.”

New Oasis was founded in 2008 and partners with the most competitive private high schools in the United States. For more information about New Oasis or the 5K, contact Mike Atkinson at or 703-870-7260.


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Q&A with NYA student, her natural parent and host parent

Celine Xu is a 10th grade student who recently arrived in the U.S. to study at North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, ME.  Celine and her natural mother made the trip together in January to Maine and were greeted by her New Oasis Homestay Coordinator and were welcomed into the McLellan home (Celine’s host family). We recently caught up with Celine, her natural mother Yaohui and her host mother Nikki to see how Celine was adjusting to her new school and life in Maine.


 Here is our conversation with Celine Xu:

Q: Where are you from in China? Can you describe what it is like?

Celine: I came from Heilongjiang Province Daqing city which is a northern city of China. It is really cold in winter and it is one of the biggest oil city of China. It is popular for its lakes and wet lands. It is a metropolitan area.

Q: What made you interested in studying in the U.S.? In Maine?

Celine: I went to America in a summer vacation and I was impressed by the academic atmosphere in Princeton university and Columbia university. Maine is a quiet and comfortable place for me to study. So I choose Maine and  NYA.

Q: Why did you choose the New Oasis program?

Celine: I believe New Oasis is a good program.  [They are] really responsible for me.

Q: When you arrived in Maine, what was your first impression of everything (the people, the area, your host family?)

Celine: The people in Maine is friendly, it is a quiet area and the air is fresh. My host family is really nice and helpful. They just like my parents, my brother and my sister. I understand the happiness that is given by brother or sister.

Q. How would you describe your school? Is it a lot different from the school where you went in China?

Celine: My school is good and the people in the school are friendly to me. It has funny activities and a good atmosphere to study. It has a lot differences between China and America’s high school but I think it is good for me to have more time to do the things I love.

Q: Any last thoughts you would like to share?

Celine: Certainly. I think New Oasis is a responsible program and take their work seriously. I would recommend the program to other students.


Here is our conversation with Yaohui, Celine’s natural mother:

Q: In China, there are so many programs that help students study abroad in the U.S. Can you tell me why you chose the New Oasis program for your daughter?

Yaohui: We chose New Oriental overseas study agency in China, and New Oasis is their partner abroad.

Q: When you arrived in the U.S. with your daughter, what was your first impression?

Yaohui: The city is quiet and clean. People are very nice and kind. The New Oasis Homestay Coordinator is professional and patient, and always there for us when we need help. And the host family is easygoing.

Q: Would you recommend New Oasis to other parents in China? If so, why?

Yaohui: Surely, I would. I think it very necessary for our kids to have a local agency to supervise and guide their high school study abroad, help them solve their problem or puzzles in ordinary life. And making them fit to the new environment as soon as possible, and New Oasis is very professional.


Here is our conversation with Nikki, Celine’s host mother:

Q: Can you tell me why you decided to host an international student?

Nikki: My Husband and I thought it would be fun, interesting, an a good learning experience for our entire family.

Q: What were your first impressions of your host student when she arrived? Have your impressions of her changed at all after living with her? How would you describe her?

Nikki: We expected a shy young lady that we would need to help adjust to America and encourage her to get involved in social activities. To our surprise she (Celine) was not shy at all and very excited and willing to experience everything and anything. Example: Celine came to us on a Friday evening. Saturday afternoon we drove to Massachusetts for a NYA (School) hockey game which our son Bradley plays on. On our return home we had been invited to a night of Galactic Bowling (Which is colored lights and music while bowling) with other host families so that Celine could meet some of the students from NYA before her first day of school. She interacted with the students as if she had already known them. This activity started at 10PM and ended at 1AM. Then we had a 40minute drive home. On the way home Celine said she had lots of fun. We figured if she could handle a day like that she could handle anything. Celine appears to be very comfortable with us and has made many friends. She was invited to a Chinese New Year gathering and a sleep over. Which she attended and enjoyed. She also cooked the biggest most amazing Chinese feast for our family. It was fabulous. I have many stories to tell in the short time that Celine has been with us. I think I could already write a book.

Q: Did you have any moments where you’ve learned about her culture?

Nikki: I guess there is not a day that has gone by that I haven’t learned something new. The amazing feast she prepared for us was one of them. Sipping on hot water to sooth the stomach. The pictures she has shown us of the Ice Castle’s, Ice sculptures, and snow sculpture’s from her home town where incredible. I think Celine has been very well prepared for her new journey.

Q: How would you describe what it’s like to host a New Oasis student?

Nikki: We are very glad that our family made the decision to be a host family. Celine has only been with us for 2 weeks, but it feels like she has always been here. Celine is already like a daughter to us and a sister to my kids. She is part of our family. I say this with sincerity.