I began working in the camping industry as a bunk counselor / ropes instructor at International Sports Training Camp, PA in 2006. I have been working at ISTC every summer since then.
I loved camp from the day I was hired at a CCUSA job fair in Sydney, Australia. My first summer not only did I make great friends, but could not believe what an impact I could make on a camper in just one week. Whether it was a high five in the cafeteria, or a cabin chat during a thunderstorm, these kids hung on every word we said. We are their heroes.
I loved camp so much I went to work for CCUSA Australia in Sydney during the off season. During my two years working there, my eyes were opened to how important international staffing is. I had the opportunity to work closely with many camps to assist aussie staff to get jobs at camp. The skills and experiences that those staff have are an absolute asset to any camp and are unique to each country.
This summer, ISTC has staff from 13 countries. Without the unique cultures, ISTC would not be the place it is today. Our camp does a fantastic job of integrating all staff, regardless of position or heritage. Our non-counselling staff all live in staff housing and are assigned specific bunks to ensure a mix. We go above and beyond during staff training to ensure all staff have a positive experience, and that we provide a solid support network for all staff. This mentality continues throughout the summer, with special surprises and events for all staff to enjoy, regardless of position. Summer camps look after their staff - they receive adequate time off and work in roles where there is plentiful time for cultural exchange. Camps provide housing and transport for international staff to enjoy their local surroundings. Thousands of US kids go to camp every summer, and all they speak about their counselors and what amazing people they are. We believe happy staff = happy campers.
Many of our current US staff were campers when I counselled. I am humbled to mention that they mention me as a reason for wanting to come to work at camp, and that I have been a role model in their lives. Mine is just one of thousands of stories of staff having life changing impacts on campers.
There is no doubt in my mind that if this cultural exchange program were to cease, so would the camping industry. International staff play an absolutely pivotal role in this industry, and without us, summer camp would not be what it is today. I actively promote and advertise positions online and person across the US. I attend college fair days and speak at local colleges. Having said this, I do not receive enough applications each season to fill our quota of staff with just Americans. International staff do not take jobs away from US staff. The staff combine and balance to ensure a camping experience true to American culture and values but with a distinctive international cultural element.
Please amend the bill to exclude the counselor and summer work and travel visa. Camp is my life and I would not be the person I am today without it. I truly believe in our mission to positively impact each and every camper who walks through our gates. Across America summer camps are doing great things each and every day to genuinely change the lives of young people.