I spent my childhood attending YMCA after-school programs and YMCA summer camps, but I had never seen a “Y”, as they are sometimes called, quite like the one I recently visited on Route J-1. The YMCA of the Rockies is nestled next to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado.
It is a family-friendly resort that is not only famous for its brand of recreation and proximity to world class hiking, but also for its J-1 staff who come from almost every continent.
YMCA American co-workers, guests, and residents of Estes Park were invited to visit the fair – and they did!
The American co-worker pictured above in the background of the picture told me, “My wife and I decided to come out here to work this summer, and we really love meeting these students!” I also heard from long-time guests, “We come every year and we always remark at how the students’ English improves from our first day to our last. It’s really something.” The YMCA embraces the uniqueness of each participant, and encourages students to mix with guests. They know that their international flair makes the guests’ visit even more special.
I met a student from Senegal who captured everyone’s attention with his stature, or it may have been his warm and welcoming smile – likely both.
He told me that he entered the program to learn about the YMCA system and he intends to bring the Y to Senegal. He is working with the Y staff to do so, and they couldn’t have been more pleased about this development.
As you can see from the photos, students were so proud to display their culture – from Colombian dancing to European football.
A spontaneous “dance off” between Colombian, Jamaican, Turkish and Nigerian students caused a lot of laughter and energy, but my favorite part was when the song “YMCA” played over the loud speakers and everyone jumped in together!
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|About G. Kevin Saba|
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.Read More
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