I was a typical America boy growing up in Brooklyn. As far as I knew the work consisted of the 5 boroughs of NYC and my grandparents place in the Catskill Mountains where I spent my summers.
I had never met any foreigners and all I knew about the world was what I saw on TV.
When I was 18 I got my first summer camp job at New Jersey YMHA (NJY) camps in Pennsylvania. NJY participates on the cultural exchange programme and hires staff from all over the world. For the first time in my life I got to meet people from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and countries in Africa. I had so many questions for them. I wanted to learn as much as I could about life outside of my own country At the same time I wanted to show these vistors my country and the best the USA had to offer. I took them to baseball games and became their tour guide for NYC. Many came to stay at my house after camp and my parents and sisters also learned about them and where they came from.
Some stayed with me in Buffalo where I attended college and got to experience America college life.
My cultural exchange experience changed my life forever in two ways.
When I became a history teacher I use my experience and knowledge of the outside world in my lessons even inviting one of my UK friends to come and speak to my class. They learned more about the UK in one day than I could ever teach them in a year.
I also met my wife at camp. I young girl from the UK. We now live in the UK and my eldest son is working at a camp.
Becasue of my camp experience I have visited over 30 countries around the world. Something I would have never done if not for the cultural exchange aspect of my camp.
If the Immigration Bill is passed as it stands the J-1 Cultural experience that I and my wife receive will be destroyed.
I urge the member of Congress to amend this bill. if you do not think it is important enough, think about future generations of Americans who will grow up knowing nothing of the outside world.