Volunteer extends family with service

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 6, 2004

The outside sign at Central Christian Academy reads “Nihao Jing Ting Chen.”

“People have been calling me all week asking me what’s going on with our sign,” said Jimmy Barlow, headmaster of Central Christian Academy.

“The sign welcomes the newest addition to our student body – Jing Ting Chen, known as ‘TingTing’ – who arrived last Friday and started school on Monday as a senior.

Email newsletter signup

“She’ll graduate with our senior class next May,” he said.

Ting Ting hails from Changsha City in Hunan Province.

Ting Ting is being hosted by Cindy Duck, talent search coordinator, on staff of Wallace Community College.

Duck has been active in a number of volunteer activities in the community, but has likely taken on the biggest volunteer activity of her lifetime – having an international student in her home for the coming year.

“It all happened very quickly,” said Duck.


only child, daughter Casey,

entered Troy State this fall and I guess I was suffering from the empty nest syndrome. She and I are very close and I really was missing her terribly.”

Duck gave an account of how Ting Ting came to America, Selma and her home.

Duck said she saw the article in The Selma Times-Journal that appeared at the time of Joerg Hund’s departure for Germany this past summer after a year in Selma attending CCA.

That turned on a light in her head, she said, and she made contact with her friend Brenda Tuck whose family had hosted Hund.

Then Duck saw an advertisement in The Selma-Times Journal placed by the American International Student Exchange.

She called the 800 number which turned out to be in New York City.

The ad was asking both for a local representative and host families.

Duck’s interest deepened and she began feeling that just maybe an international “daughter” in her home for the year might just be what was needed to fill the empty nest.

After many conversations in a very short period of time, the knot was tied between Ting Ting and Duck and the travel plans finalized.

Ting Ting was to arrive at the Montgomery airport

Thursday, Aug. 26, but because of a flight delay did not arrive until Friday.

That delay resulted in a conversation with a New York City resident who was a close friend of Ting Ting’s mother in China from university days.

Duck let Ting Ting’s mother’s friend know that all was well and Ting Ting’s family was contacted in China, much to their relief.

In the mean time, plans for school were being explored.

Duck read another article in The Times-Journal about Joyce Allison, a teacher at CCA who was a friend of Duck’s at church. Duck did not know that Allison had joined the faculty at CCA and was fascinated by the fact that Allison had spent the last five summers in China teaching English as a second language.

That fact clinched the choice for CCA for Ting Ting.

Yet another Times-Journal article came to bear on plans for Ting Ting. On Wednesday a Lifestyles feature appeared on Carrie Ingram, just hired on staff of the Selma-Dallas County Public Library , fresh from China, by way of Japan and a family-run school named “Hello, English.”

Duck, who has been an avid supporter of the library and whose daughter Casey

worked there in the children’s department, was hoping that Ting Ting might be able to spend some time in the library during the coming year in some capacity. That possibility is currently being explored.

“There’s too much about this story to have been just coincidence,” said Duck happily. “I do believe that the Lord had it all planned out. I’m so thankful that it has worked out,” she said.

Ting Ting is quickly getting acclimated to America, according to Barlow and Duck.

She loves sports, drawing and dancing, she said. Not knowing the name of her Chinese musical instrument

which she brought with her – Gu Zheng – she pulled out her tiny computerized dictionary and showed the words “stringed instrument.”

“We’re delighted to have her,” said Headmaster Barlow. “She will be a great addition. She helps diversify CCA even more. She’s very conscientious about her grades according to her teachers,” he said.