BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
The organizers had high hopes recently in downtown Port Clinton that summer workers from overseas would want to find the time in their busy workdays around the area to accept an invitation to enjoy a sunny afternoon in late July on Madison Street.
If you didn’t know each student’s country of origin, it would be difficult to guess the nationality of the young women and men because they were so fluent in English.
“We were hoping that many of the workers would accept our invitation to be welcomed properly by the community,” said Kristin DuBois, a Public Affairs Specialist with Bridge USA and the U.S. Department of State. “We were expecting about 100 or so, and keeping our fingers crossed.”
DuBois didn’t have to worry.
The turnout for hot dogs on the grill, cold refreshments, a DJ on the Madison Street’s District Stage playing favorite tunes, corn hole games and chess and checkers — and especially the chance to meet other young people from other countries — made for a great afternoon.
The turnout surprised all of the sponsors, with more than 145 enjoying Port Clinton’s hospitality.
Port Clinton Mayor Mike Snider was one of the major cogs in the special event. His daytime business, Our Guest Inn in Port Clinton, has been employing oversees students for more than three decades, with excellent results for both his business and the students.
“We know how important these workers are to the success of our economy,” said Snyder. “We want them to enjoy their time here, experience some of the best aspects of America, and take that message home with them.”
Most of his “kids,” as he calls them, come from Thailand and Taiwan. Snider makes sure they know their jobs, are comfortable in another country, and also — most importantly — get a chance to enjoy new and different experiences, from a trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park or professional baseball games, local foods and more than a few ice cream sundaes.
Most of the young workers are still in college, and language is not a problem. All who were interviewed were surprisingly fluent in English. Many wanted to learn to speak “just like an American.”
Snider’s workers are imported through the J-1 Program, and Tanya Burovtseva was on site as External Engagement Manager for InterExchange, which brings thousands of students to America.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo personally welcomed them all to Port Clinton, and actually went one step further.
“My office is in Washington, D.C.,” Kaptur told the students from The District Stage. “My door is always open. So if you find yourself in the nation’s capital, I hope you can find time to visit my office and let me show you around.”
Many of the workers are employed at Cedar Point and Put-in-Bay, taking jobs that are difficult to fill each summer. Some of the workers come from the Pacific Rim, but workers attending were from around the world, with Turkey a surprising home country for many of them.
They’ll have the opportunity to travel the U.S. once their summer work season ends, and after their experiences so far this summer, they’ve found Americans friendly and welcoming.
“That’s what we want,” said Snider. “We hope they’ll spread that message to other young people in their home country. They are so necessary for our economy, and a joy to work with in summer.”