We asked Amanda Moulden (International Programs Director) and Polly Gallagher (International Staff & Volunteer Coordinator) with the YMCA of the Rockies to tell us about the Y’s experiences with IENA students and J-1 programs.
Please tell us a little bit about the YMCA of the Rockies / What makes international staff important to Y of the Rockies?
- YMCA of the Rockies has been hiring internationals through the J1 Visitor Exchange Program for 25 years in order to promote our mission through the diversity of our staff, build knowledge of YMCAs from around the world, and provide leadership and cultural opportunities.
- Summer Work & Travel, Camp Counselor and International Trainee Programs make up roughly 15% of YMCA of the Rockies’ total work force.
- J1 participants experience American culture through their interactions at work, on their own during non-work hours, and through organized activities. Participants at YMCA of the Rockies go camping and hiking throughout Colorado, engage in English conversation and language classes, participate in workshops focused on management skills for non-profit organizations and leadership, and celebrate American holidays such as Fourth of July festivities.
- J1 participants share their culture and customs with staff, guests, and our communities through school visits and presentations, hosting international dinners, and sharing in international fairs and cultural exchange evenings.
- YMCA of the Rockies’ two centers can only employee Summer Work & Travel students at specific peak season times. SWT students supplement our American employees and help us surge our operations during peak season. Estes Park Center can only employ Summer Work & Travel participants in the summer; Snow Mountain Ranch can only employ Summer Work & Travel participants in the summer and winter. This is especially beneficial when our American students are back in school beginning in August and through the winter.
- The Camp Counselor program promotes a strong educational component. International camp counselors at Camp Chief Ouray, Estes Park Center, and Snow Mountain Ranch are educators and students who come to the U.S. to become fluent speakers, thus better able to support the children in their home countries.
- The Intern and Trainee programs are good for U.S. diplomacy and security. The program creates leaders and partners for the future. It creates young business leaders around the world who will move into positions of leadership and who truly understand America and how to do business with us
- The J1 program enhances our YMCA international partnerships. For example, participants from the direct partnership with YMCA Colombia come to the U.S. to enrich their English language to then return home and implement English immersion programs for children.
What do you like about the Summer Work Travel program?
AM: Personally, I like most the fact that we can provide a safe, healthy environment for people from all over the world to meet, work and interact with each other. Lifelong friendships and networking can be created while they are all here and it gives everyone a chance to learn more about different parts of the world.
PG: International staff provided a great learning opportunity for our American staff and vice versa. We greatly appreciate the sharing of home cultures (especially food!!). When our young employees get to meet someone of similar age who has travelled so far, it opens minds to possibilities. We’ve had several staff visit new friends in different countries around the world. Our volunteers (mostly seniors) take great pride in sharing our beautiful country with our Internationals. We value the cultural exchange that takes place.
What would you say to other employers who are considering using the program?
I would tell them that it’s a very fulfilling opportunity to be able to offer programs for people from all over the world. While there is a lot to learn about the process and how to hire properly, there are plenty of resources and people available to help guide you through everything step by step.
Thanks to Amanda for participating in our employer spotlight!
To learn more about working at the YMCA of the Rockies as a J-1 participant, visit https://jobs.ymcarockies.org/work-and-travel