Camp Spaulding Hosts Students from YMCA Colombia

“I’m very much enjoying this camp experience. Everyone is very friendly and they make you feel like you’re at home,” said Sergio, age 15, camper from YMCA Colombia. “My parents are very happy and proud of me. It’s my first international trip.”

YMCA Camp Spaulding was selected as one of several YMCA camps from around the United States to host students from YMCA Colombia in early July. YMCA Colombia partnered with the Colombian government’s Ministry of Education Bilingual Education Department to advance Colombian youth’s command of the English language, leadership skills, and global cultural competence. The goal of the program in 2016 is to send 100 Colombian teenagers to camp for a full immersion in English experience, intercultural exposure, and leadership development program. Camp Spaulding is hosting 10 campers this year. Campers arrived at Camp Spaulding on June 26 and are enrolled in our camp’s first session. The Colombian government is funding this initiative for their students, eight of whom are traveling out of their country for the first time.

According to Nico Gourdet, Director of Global Leadership at YMCA of the USA’s International Group, “Camper and youth exchanges between YMCAs in Colombia and the US are integral to building global leaders in both countries.  Through the medium of camping, young people from both countries gain deeply valuable cross-cultural competencies that will help them navigate an increasingly global society with greater fluidity.”

Josh Schupack, Camp Spaulding Director is enthusiastic in his assessment of the partnership, “It was incredible having campers from another country come to us at YMCA Camp Spaulding. Not only were campers improving their English skills, but they actively were teaching our campers Spanish and about Colombian culture. It was just as enriching for our campers to interact with them as it was for them to interact with us.”

Chaperoning the Colombian students is Daniel Enrique Hernandez Cruz, who majored in English and Spanish in his undergraduate studies at and is currently a graduate student at Universidad Internacional de la Rioja, Spain, studying E-learning and social media.

When discussing the program, he said, “So far I can tell you that this is the best way to learn a second language. This experience has been a great opportunity for the Colombian kids not only to learn, practice and meet new friends, but also to learn from another culture, open their minds, see the world in a wide way. Besides that, it has been a chance for us to let American kids and staff at camp know about our culture and exchange ideas, likes and thoughts and some other different things such as music, sports, food, etc. I will definitely recommend and promote back home this kind of projects. Count on us for further projects.” He added that students selected for this trip come from public schools where English is taught at a very basic level. “These students want to learn. They are very motivated.”

As part of the agreement with the Colombian government’s Ministry of Education, Mr. Hernandez Cruz has been sending back daily reports on the camper’s experiences. The government is using social media, including daily Twitter updates, to share the experiences from the campers.

Daniel explained that it’s a competitive process for students to be selected to come to a YMCA camp. Students take national exams in 9th grade and only the best students are considered for this international experience . “It’s very prestigious for students to be selected to go to the United States,” he said. “We take the best students who want to learn about U.S. culture and better their English language skills.”

“All of the kids are friendly and talking to us like a family. I’m very excited I’m improving my conversational skills, meeting new friends and learning the culture,” said Leydi, a 15-year-old camper. Alejandro, also age 15, shared similar sentiments, “I love cabin life. Everyone is friendly. We talk about the highlights of the day in our cabin at night. It’s not lonely at night. I want to be with American people to help with my level of English.”


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