This is a story about love and appreciation.
Xiaotong “Maggie” Meng moved from China to the United States years ago, but it was her high school host mom, TT Nellie, who has had the biggest impact on her life. From the life lessons to the help in getting acquainted to a new school and a new state, Maggie is grateful for Nellie always being there to help her through every adjustment.
“I transferred from Wisconsin to New Jersey and ended up living with TT Nellie Pinos,” Maggie said. “When the school first started, she was worried about me not getting used to going to a Catholic school, so she would ask me what happened at school today or some new things that I learned from classes every night.”
Nellie was always genuinely interested in Maggie’s life and how she was doing in school, and Maggie could tell this right from the start. She always felt loved and supported by Nellie, and she is glad that she had the privilege of being her host “daughter.”
Nellie constantly encouraged Maggie to try new things, and this is why she took the opportunity to run cross country and winter track, among other things. Without Nellie’s love and support, Maggie is not sure she would be the person she is today.
“She means a lot to me, specifically my life motivator and guideline,” Maggie said. “I’m an introvert, and it was not easy for me to adjust to the new environment. But TT has always stayed by my side to help me get through a lot of difficulties and encouraged me to participate in sports and different clubs.”
And now Maggie is killing it at Penn State as a college student who is studying journalism, and a lot of the courage she had to go into this field is because of Nellie.
On top of just being a wonderful host mom and a supporter of Maggie, Nellie has also been an amazing person to everyone around her as well. She is constantly looking out for others and she is constantly making sure everyone has everything they need, and this feeds into her extraordinary personality.
“TT and I would always go to church on Sunday morning,” Maggie said. “One of the priests there, Father Dan, got cancer and his situation was not good. One time TT drove me to the grocery store, we bought a bunch of food and daily supplies for Father Dan.”
After dropping the supplies off at Father Dan’s, Nellie made sure he knew she would be there for him, day or night, if he needed anything as that is just the selfless individual Nellie is.
Maggie also has memories of Nellie taking her mid-90s aged mother on road trips every weekend, as well as not letting any sort of weather prevent her from going and babysitting Alina and Siena while Maggie was at school. Maggie will also never forget when Nellie helped ease her homesickness by hosting a bunch of Nellie’s family members for dinner during Maggie’s first night in New Jersey, as well as her getting Maggie in touch with a bunch of potential friends to go to her high school’s football games with.
Overall, there have been so many great memories and so many life lessons that Maggie has taken with her, and she is thankful to have learned so much from such an exceptional woman.
“I learned from TT that when I treat others with kindness and sincerity, they will return the same warmth and generosity to me,” she said. “It is also very important to show my care for those around me, whether they are my friends, family members or even a stranger.”
Being there for others is something Nellie has always made a priority in her life, and that is just a small part of what made her an amazing host mom.
Even to this day Maggie and Nellie stay in touch and try to spend time together on occasion, and Maggie hopes she never loses touch with Nellie. She has made a true impact in her life and Maggie cannot imagine having had a better host mom than TT Nellie.
“TT, thank you so much for everything you have done for me,” Maggie said. “I know it was not an easy journey as COVID hit in 2020 and I had to return back to China. But I appreciate every piece of advice you gave me and all your support to push me to become a better person. My life would definitely not get to turn out the same without living with you for about seven months. I hope I can always keep in touch with you in the future.”