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Celebrating J-Day: Lifeguard Olympics

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

Exchange visitors taking part in the Lifeguard Olympics in Fairfax, Virginia, gather with representatives of the Capital Area Food Bank.

Exchange visitors taking part in the Lifeguard Olympics in Fairfax, Virginia, gather with representatives of the Capital Area Food Bank.

In this post, my colleague, Jennifer Nupp, shares her experience during a recent visit to Fairfax, Virginia.

J-Day is a day when J-1 visa participants come together in their communities around the U.S. to celebrate and share cultural diversity and American customs.  In commemoration of J-Day, the sponsor this August hosted its sixth annual “Lifeguard Olympics” held at the Brandywine Swim Club in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.  The sponsor hosts this popular event near the end of the summer season for student J-visa holders working as lifeguards in the Washington metropolitan area as a thank you to these exchange visitors and local employees for all their hard work.

The supervisor boat race causes excitement among exchange visitors and program organizers alike.

The supervisor boat race causes excitement among exchange visitors and program organizers alike.

This year’s event began in the wee hours of the morning at 5:00 a.m.  The 210 exchange visitors at this highly competitive “Olympics,” currently work as lifeguards through the J-1 Summer Work Travel program and represented eleven countries: Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Turkey, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Mauritius, the United Kingdom, Serbia, and Macedonia.  Many of the participants proudly donned the J-DAY logo on their t-shirts on this very special occasion.

An event participant models his J-Day T-shirt.

An event participant models his J-Day T-shirt.

Since it was still dark when the competition began, the participants wore glow stick jewelry to illuminate themselves.  There were team events, a very exciting brick treading-water challenge for individual competitors, and the supervisor boat race on little rafts that seemed to have minds of their own.

Medal winners celebrate in style.

Medal winners celebrate in style.

The exchange visitors also used this opportunity to give back to the community and brought canned and boxed goods to donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.  Some of the foods were from the visitors’ home countries!  A total of 833 pounds of food were collected and donated to Food Bank representatives who posed with all of the exchange visitors.

Waving the pool flag at the event’s conclusion as Fire and Rescue sirens blare.

Waving the pool flag at the event’s conclusion as Fire and Rescue sirens blare.

At the conclusion of the event, the sponsor and host employer presented medals to the participants, some of whom celebrated in style by wearing attire from their home countries.  Fairfax Fire & Rescue staff was also present at the event and, at the conclusion, drove away in a blaze of sirens to the delight of the participants, who cheered and waved.

Categories: Participants, Program Spotlight

About Nicole Elkon

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

Nicole Elkon

Nicole Elkon joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange in September 2021. Until June 2021, Ms. Elkon was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Human Rights First, an independent advocacy organization focused on human rights and the rule of law. Prior to her position as COO, Ms. Elkon was a Senior Advisor at Results for America (RFA), a non-profit organization focused on advancing data-driven, evidence based public policy at all levels of government. She also served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of ECA and was Director of the Office of Public Private Partnerships at ECA working to leverage strategic partnerships to enhance Administration foreign policy priorities.

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