Urgent Editors Note: What follows is an urgent blog post about an issue facing the camp industry and its international staffing options. Ultimately we ask you in this post to take action to help keep international staffing as part of the camp world. To take that action immediately, you can scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the link to submit a support letter. Or, to better understand the issue we’re talking about, read all the way through. Either way, time is of the essence. There are only a few more days to contact the White House to add your input on international camp staffing options. Thanks!
Camp Alleghany for Girls isn’t in the politics business. In fact, you can say that we don’t get political at all.
Well, wait a minute. You can say that we don’t get partisan at all. We’re not into candidates and elections and taking partisan sides on all the issues out there today.
But you could also say that we take being American citizens seriously. And by extension, we take it seriously that as a business we have a corporate citizenship responsibility in our country.
And on that score, when it comes to business, camp is like any other business in that we’re subject to regulations, and legislative or policy decisions, that affect our industry.
For example, when states make rulings on length of the school year — when it ends and when it starts — you can be sure that we’re concerned about how that affects our camp dates, and that might lead us to contact a state official to weigh in on the issue in a way that protects our business.
Well, we’re finding ourselves in need of doing a little bit of that kind of lobbying now because one of the aspects of camp that we value so highly — hiring a portion of our staff from an international pool of applicants — is potentially at risk right now.
As an accredited camp with the American Camp Association, we were advised through them that the Trump administration is considering, “cuts to, or eliminating the J-1 Visa for Camp Counselor and Summer Work and Travel Programs (Support Staff at Camp),” a fact later confirmed in an article in the Wall Street Journal.
Yay for International Staff
As you can imagine we would be so sad to see this happen, for so many reasons.
Our international staff members add so much to camp, a rich layer of cultural exchange that brings in a flavor all its own to our already diverse and exciting American staffers.
Campers benefit from spending in-depth time with counselors from other countries, and they are also enriched by contact with kitchen and Green Team staffers who often come to us from other parts of the world, too.
Soon campers are picking up new terminology, cracking an, ” ‘Ey, mate!,” or learning a Spanish, German, or Estonian word to brighten up their vocabulary and understanding of the broader world. Or maybe they hear stories about how things are done differently back in the staffer’s home country.
Staff unity is also enhanced in two ways. Obviously, cultural influences are exchanged among counselors too, again, adding richness to their community. And our international counselors are mostly in the Non Camper Counselor Club (the en-cee-double-cees) giving them a sub-group like the JC-to-Counselor group, the Tinges, to be a part of.
Not that we really separate them in any substantial way. These “color groups” are just fun little enhancements like being a 4-year or a 10-year that add to camp fun and traditions.
But add they do! And it would be a real loss to not have these valued and valuable staff members at camp each year.
Room For Everyone
Based on our number of applicants, we don’t feel that international staffing numbers substantively affects American jobs for these summer programs. We employ a majority of Americans, and the international jobs are supplements to that, not replacements for it.
We hope you’ll join us in doing a little bit of lobbying on behalf of these vital international camp staffing programs.
First, if you want to learn more, the ACA has posted some more background information about the issue-at-large and how it affects the camp industry as a whole, and not just Camp Alleghany for Girls.
Secondly, and very importantly, you can sign your name to a pre-written letter (it is editable by you to make it more personalized, like if you wanted to share YOUR camper’s experience with having international staff). This letter is online, and once you sign it, it will go to the administration officials responsible for reviewing the issue, and, we hope, help influence them to decide in favor of continuing these vital summer visa programs.
We LOVE our international staffers! We have seen first hand how their presence is a truly meaningful enhancement to camp and especially in the lives of campers.
We hope you’ll help us to reach out either with the simple pre-written message, or with an edited version expressing your personal views on this issue. Together I think we — along with the greater American camp community — can raise our voice for the industry and for individual camps and influence this decision in a way that keeps these programs alive.
Thanks for listening and please join us!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls