Joplin couple open their home to international students for the holidays


JOPLIN, Mo. — The holiday season is all about spending time with the ones you love, but sometimes that’s a difficult task.

Instead of driving to another town, or state, some spend the holidays thousands of miles away from the ones they love.

One Joplin couple has opened their home to create a new family for those far from home.

“From all of our time in Germany we know what it’s like being thousands of miles away from family,” says Mike Jernigan, Joplin Resident, “It’s work, but it’s fun work.”

This is the third year Mike and Ann Jernigan have opened up their Joplin home for the holiday season.

Through the Friendship Family Network, they’ve supported several international students from Missouri Southern State University.

“Our first year we worked with two Ukrainian young men,” says Ann, “Just became family and opened our home to them and the next year we added quite a few more, a German girl, a French girl, their roommates.”

Every year the couple tries to give students a window into the American life.

“We invite them to dinner, we went to Kansas City with a couple of them one day,” says Mike, “We had four of them go to a baseball game and we sat there the whole time trying to explain what baseball was all about.”

And in the true American experience, every year the Jernigan home becomes an international melting pot, where students share traditions from their home countries.

“They learn the customs of each other, they become family too,” says Ann.

Alex Fortes, an Exchange Student From Spain says, “What’s mostly different is New Years. In Spain…we eat 12 grapes to start the New Year and that’s something that they don’t do here and that’s something I’ll be doing when New Years comes.”

Creating bonds that will last a lifetime.

“A lot of them call us their American grandparents,” says Ann, “We talked to another Spanish from last year, we just spent 20 minutes on the phone with him, I mean they just don’t forget us, and we don’t forget them, and we just think of them as family.”

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