In this post, my colleague, Deb Shetler, shares her experience during her recent trip to South Dakota.
Last week, my colleague Yupa and I had the pleasure of getting to know sixteen J-1 international students placed at South Dakota’s Custer State Park Resort as they participated in a community service activity. These energetic students spent a day supporting the state park in its effort to build a new amphitheater.
Following a short presentation by the park ranger, the students spent several hours carrying rocks and stones away in heavy buckets – it was hard work and very different than the work volunteers normally do every day! Happily, our labor was rewarded with a traditional cookout of hamburgers, hot dogs, and all the fixings. The students had a great time that day and are enjoying their experiences this summer at the resort. They told me they have made friends from around the world as well as made friends with other J-1 students and guests at the lodges where they work. Harold, one of the local resort employees, says he enjoys working with J-1 students and that the park is lucky to have such dedicated students working there.
These students’ sponsor – the organization that they work with to come on the program – has made volunteerism a central aspect of their program. After their summer in the United States, the participants who volunteer at least twenty hours during the summer are eligible to apply for grants from their sponsor to help fund community service projects in their home communities. Several students said they are already thinking about the kind of community service activity they want to do when they return home.
At the end of the day, the students were exhausted, but all left the park with smiles on their faces knowing they played an important role in helping to improve one of the most beautiful state parks in South Dakota.
|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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