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Posted on: July 21, 2015

Foreign-exchange students fill summer vacancies, utilize talents

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By Amanda Hansen, City of Garden City Communications Intern.

For some individuals in other countries, visiting America remains a distant dream; however, the Garden City Recreation Commission made that dream a reality for eleven foreign-exchange students this summer.

Typically, the Recreation Commission receives about 80 applications for summer positions each year. In recent years, that number has dwindled to around 20 or 30. John Washington, Superintendent of the Recreation Commission, began reaching out to surrounding communities in attempts to recruit employees. Without much luck, he decided to extend his efforts even further, around the globe.

“We thought, ‘we can’t short the public,’ so we reached out to surrounding, local areas such as Holcomb, but we still had vacancies so we reached out even further with [the CCI Greenheart] program,” he said. “We have had to cut programs in the past because of lack of (job) applicants, and that’s just not the direction we want to go in.”

While attending a National Recreation and Park Association conference and hearing alternative ways to fill employment vacancies for summer, Washington came across the Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI) Greenheart program. The government program supports short-term hosting of college-aged foreign-exchange students to provide paid employment opportunities.

After completing an extensive application process, Washington said the Recreation Commission was approved to take part in the CCI Greenheart program and received several resumes from students around the world. Once Washington reviewed the applications and resumes, he began the interview process via Skype and phone with the best candidates.

Eleven students: Qiangwei Zhang and Ang Li from China; Aleksandra Domasik, Patryk Robert Mazurek and Wiktor Kozlowski form Poland; Marcelino Petoshati and Xhoana Cufe from Albania; Kevin Shamar Oram and Shavon Corie Drysdale from Jamaica; Sujittra Saenhome from Thailand; and Shabaan Ibrahim-Adam from Ghana were offered summer internships at various entities in Garden City.

Washington said the foreign-exchange students did not cost local applicants jobs at the Recreation Commission if they applied by the application deadline in late April.

The foreign-exchange students are working in various departments including bookkeeping, aquatics, fitness, sports, playground, concessions and arts. Most of the interns are working in the aquatics department for maintenance, gatekeeping and concessions at the Big Pool. Washington said he’s noticed a great improvement in water quality since they’ve been here.

“Overall, the quality of the facilities has improved because we are fully staffed and don’t have to pull people from other departments to help with maintenance, leaving vacancies there,” Washington said. “Staff members no longer struggle to find people to work when short-staffed. They just have one of the participants from the program fill that position for the day.”

Washington, who hosts 5 exchange-students, has gotten to know the students at a personal level. He even managed to place Ang Li from China with Brian Seagraves, Garden City Recreation Commission Arts Director, to fulfill a position as lead pianist for the summer youth production.

“One of the kids living with me was singing, and Ang Li told him he was singing off-key,” Washington recalled. “I asked Ang Li how he knew he was singing off-key and he replied, ‘because I have been playing piano since I was 4, and I can hear he’s off-key.”

Washington said he knew right away that Ang Li would be a great fit as a pianist for the summer youth production, and his notions were confirmed when he took Ang Li to Seagraves for an audition. Washington said that they were delighted to find that Ang Li could play “Moulin Rouge” on the piano beautifully.

“These kids are all talented,” Washington said. “We will definitely host interns from this program again in the future, especially with the development of the new waterpark next August.”

For more information contact: Garden City Recreation Commission Superintendent John Washington, (620)276-1200 or

Garden City Recreation Commission website
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