A lot of little sisters want to follow in their older siblings' footsteps. In Leah Koenig's case, doing so has taken her all around the world.
The Riverview senior has traveled to Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Denmark for her work with CISV International, a non-profit organization that works to promote peace and friendship between children of the world.
In order to achieve this goal, CISV International provides international exchange experiences for children and teens ages 11 and up, according to the CISV International website, www.cisv.org.
Koenig’s older sister, Anne, now 25, and older brother, Reed, now 23, joined CISV International when a friend told their mother, Ginny, about the group, she said.
Ginny got involved in planning, recruiting, and fundraising for CISV and its Pittsburgh chapter, she said.
“We were the first family in Oakmont that participated,” Koenig said.
Her brother and sister were involved for a few years. CISV had a lasting impact on them, she said. Her brother even joined the Peace Corps, and Koenig credits his experience with CISV International as influencing that decision.
“That shows how CISV affected him,” she said.
As the youngest, Koenig was able to be a part of the CISV International experience from an earlier age than that of her siblings.
“I was young enough that I was able to do a lot of the programs,” she said.
She first took part in a CISV program when she was 11 years old. She went to Germany and stayed in a town just outside Hamburg.
The next year, Koenig went to Prague.
“It was different from the village because you’re actually living with a family,” she explained. “You actually have the cultural aspect added in.”
In following years she traveled to Germany again as well as Italy. This past summer she went to Denmark.
Because there is a progression from one exchange experience to another, by the time she went to Denmark, Koenig and her fellow exchange members were able to dictate how the summer camp was run, she said.
“It was definitely my favorite, just for the independence,” she said. “We all had the same mentality of promoting peace and making friends.”
And from the sounds of it, making friends is something Koenig has done quite well.
She’s stays in touch with friends she’s met through CISV and even had a “mini-reunion” with two girls, one from Columbia, the other from Quebec, whom she met through CISV International at the age of 15.
“That’s definitely helped by Facebook and Skype, which I use a lot,” she said. “I now have this network of friends from so many countries.”
And that network is one that will likely grow.
Though Koenig, who has been accepted to the University of Notre Dame, said she is considering going into a medical field, it doesn’t sound like this is the end of the road for her experiences with CISV International.
“I definitely want to stay involved…and continue my travels,” she said. “I want to have that be a part of my life."