The Citizen's Police Academy Alumni Association awarded Randy and Sharon Bessette the Citizens of the Year award Wednesday at city hall, for their efforts in aiding six Russian students on a work exchange program.
The students were working at a fast food restaurant as part of the program. And, according to Randy, their exchange accomodations were less than ideal.
All six of the students were living in one room, with nothing more than a hot plate and small refrigerator to sustain them.
PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF CAPE CORAL
Randy and Sharon Bessette, front, accept their award for Citizens of the Year. The Bessettes are pictured with members of the Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association, who nominated the Bessettes.
Randy said he was alerted to their situation by a friend, who was a regular at the restaurant where they worked.
"They were all good kids, and the situation they were in wasn't too good," he said.
The Bessettes took the the students in for the remainder of their stay - about a month - during which time they cooked for the students, made sure they got to and from work, even celebrating one of the student's birthdays by giving her a taste of her first American birthday cake.
Once the Bessettes learned of the students' situation, it didn't take long for them to decide what to do.
"It took about 20 minutes for us to make up our minds," Sharon said.
The students were in the United States for four months on their work exchange program. They were about three quarters of the way through.
Randy said part of the student's job was to learn and experience American culture.
"They thought that it was the way it was here in America," he said.
Emotional and tearful goodbyes were prevalent when the students started to return to their native country.
Since they all came separately, they left separately, each time a difficult parting.
"It was pretty emotional when they would leave," Randy said.
The Bessettes were praised for their work by city council member Chris Chulakes-Leetz, and Police Chief Rob Petrovich.
"That's one of the core aspects of our success - the relationship we have with the community," Petrovich said.