A summer job can be hard to come by in general, but a summer job working with kids in Russia or Belgium is especially rare. Camp Adventure Youth Services (CAYS) is giving students the opportunity to travel the world as camp counselors, providing housing, wages and unique traveling opportunities.
This year, 42 UC Davis students have become camp counselors, said Nancy Tibbitts, the coordinator for CAYS at UC Davis.
CAYS is a program designed for college-age students to help enrich and enhance the well-being of children and youth on military installations around the world.
The program has sites in 27 different countries including Belgium, Cuba, Russia and the United Kingdom, according to the Camp Adventure website. Current college students or graduates are offered counseling positions for children on military bases, embassies and British Military installations worldwide. The students run day camps, as well as overnight and sport camps, positions lasting anywhere from three to six months at a time.
Tibbitts first heard about the program through a transfer student.
“The transfer student [told me] that he had gone to Okinawa and Belgium,” said Tibbitts. “And I asked [him], ‘how do I get my students into this program?'”
UC Davis Senior Melody Falcone is one of the students participating in this program. Graduating this spring, she will be heading to Moscow, Russia in the summer to work with infants and preschoolers, teaching the alphabet and counting.
“I first heard about the program through an e-mail from my advisor,” Falcone said, a psychology major.
Falcone, who first participated in the program in Fairfield, England, said that Camp Adventure lends useful experience for her major.
“I want to go into child counseling and this is a great experience for me,” Falcone said. “You see how the children digress from being in a foreign country and the effects on the child of a parent being in the military.“
Another graduating senior, Erin Johnson, is also a veteran of Camp Adventure. Johnson first participated at the military base in Sicily in the summer of 2007. The next year, she headed to Japan.
“[The experience] is amazing and a lot of fun,” Johnson said, a managerial economics major. “You work hard but you do get to experience a new culture.“
Camp counselors like Falcone and Johnson both get weekends and nights off during the program, allowing them to travel and go into town. But that is not necessarily the reason why Johnson goes back summer after summer.
“It’s a really fun job being able to work with kids all day,” she said. “And the free travel is awesome [too].“
Johnson will spend this coming summer on a military base in Germany. She plans to work with the program for another year or so in order to travel to other countries.
“The kids get a taste of America through us because they live and grow up in foreign countries all over the world,” Johnson said. “We let them see what it’s like back home.”
CAYS began with 12 students and now sends over 950 college students and recent graduates from over 80 universities to different locations in the program each year, said Christopher Edginton, the founder of CAYS.
Camp Adventure began at the University of Oregon in 1985. Edginton claims that their success was because of the hard work of the students and the impact they had on children.
“The program has been able to sustain itself and grow because of the dedication [of the students], their transformation [into] leaders, and [their abilities to] transform the children,” said Edginton.
Despite the obvious advantages, Marcie Kirk-Holland, the project manager at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center, explained the long term benefits of the program.
“The work with kids in a cross cultural environment provides skills that are transferable to a vast number of careers from health care to business,” said Kirk-Holland. “It is a fantastic way to have an expense paid, international experience while developing professional skills and contacts.“
Edginton also sees the enormous benefit this program has for college students.
“It provides an opportunity [to develop] leadership, skills, and themselves,” he said. “As the most successful integrative [institution], the military offers the opportunity to work in a highly successful organization that draws on diversity.“
According to their website, CAYS has since its creation sent over 14,500 college students to over 150 sites in Asia, Europe and South America and serves 750,000 children annually.
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at email@example.com.XXX