Jellystone Gets Help Around the World
Families visiting Leisure Systems Inc.'s Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts often get more than a family time themed with cartoon fun — they get an international experience.
“We have more than a dozen parks that supplement their local employees with foreign college students,” said Michele Wisher, director of marketing for Jellystone, in a press release. “They can really enhance the camping experience and give our guests a chance to meet people from all over the world.”
“Our guests just love them,” said Bob Yaquinto, who along with his wife Diane, is a national supervisor for Legacy RV Resorts, which owns five Jellystone Parks in five states, including Cherokee, N.C.; Milton, Pa.; Pelahatchie, Miss.; Waller, Texas; and Warrens, Wis.
The students are pre-screened by Chicago based CCI Greenheart, which specializes in recruiting foreign college students for temporary work assignments in many positions, such as amusement parks, grocery stores, water parks, ski resorts, concessions, as well as RV resorts and campgrounds.
“You can hire the students off CCI’s job board or you can Skype with them. But we like to prescreen them in person when possible,” Yaquinto said, adding that he and his wife have hired students from all over Europe, the Middle East and China. “Last year we hired students from Turkey and Jordan. We also hired from Ukraine.”
In late January, the Yaquintos traveled to the Dominican Republic to interview students there. They also plan to travel to China in the spring, where they will interview student job applicants in Chanchun, Haikou and Guangzhou.
Altogether the Yaquintos plan to hire about 100 students for the 2014 summer travel season. Yaquinto said they travel overseas because they cannot hire enough local college students to fill their labor needs, which peak between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Campgrounds are eager to hire high school and college students to fill these jobs during the summer season. Early school start dates in many areas of the country make it impossible for campgrounds to keep their labor force intact for as much as a third of the summer travel season. Most campgrounds are also located in rural areas where there are not enough high school or college students close by to fill temporary work assignments.
But Yaquinto said foreign college students do more than satisfy labor needs. They also enrich the experience for campground guests in many ways. “Everyone wears a name tag in our parks with their name and their country. Our guests see that and want to talk to the students,” Yaquinto said.
“The students are usually working in areas of the campground that allow them to interact with our guests, such as in our recreation department, snack bar, or by the pool since they often work as life guards or pool attendants,” Yaquinto said, adding, “When we do Karaoke events these students will sing songs in their native languages and our guests just love it.”
The students also benefit from their experience of working and interacting with Americans. “They don’t just want to improve their English," Yaquinto said, “they want to learn about our customs. In Texas they learn about boots, cowboys, and barbecues. We try to provide them with a wide range of field trips during their stay so they can attend ball games, museums, national monuments, and of course shopping malls! The students also participate in campground potlucks and cook dishes from their native countries.
"Our other employees also benefit from getting to know the foreign students. Two years ago we had some of our local lifeguards in Missouri travel to Ukraine during their Christmas vacation to visit some of the students they had met that summer.”
Yaquinto said he also likes to hire students from many different countries to further enrich the cultural experience for the students. Students are given flags from their country to display outside their cabins, which gives an international feel to the campground. “Sometimes two or three students from different countries will share the same housing and have different flags posted outside,” he said.