Anyone who has lived in or visited the Delaware shore for any length of time likely knows that international students make up a large portion of summertime employees in the area. With the workers coming from all over the world, it can be difficult for them to acclimate to a new area, new food, new customs and new laws. But that’s a problem some local businesspeople are hoping to eliminate.
Four years ago, after the Ocean View Police Department held a bicycle-safety checkpoint, OVPD Chief Ken McLaughlin called around to various community organizations, hoping to reach out and see if anyone wanted to get involved in helping the visiting students.
From that, the Quiet Resorts International Student Committee was formed, with the goal to try to help integrate and welcome international students to the area.
“We’ve had a really great response – alot of the local churches and banks… and we would meet monthly,” explained Carrie Subity, executive director for the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce.
Subity said that the committee teamed up with ResortQuest – which employs more than a third of the students during the season – to hold orientations.
“Then ResortQuest, who is probably the largest employer of international students in our area, they hold orientations for their new students each year. So we hold these orientations where a lot of good information is available for the kids,” Subity explained.
This year, three orientations will be held, free of charge, for any of the students who want to attend. Students who attend an orientation will receive a two-hour bicycle safety course presented by the Delaware Department of Education, and receive tips and information from organizations including Beebe Medical Center, local banks and police departments, and receive a free lunch.
“It’s a really great program,” said Subity. “Right now, ResortQuest has approximately 100 students and room for 50 other students.”
ResortQuest isn’t the only organization that is reaching out to the students — the St. Martha’s Episcopal and Ocean View Presbyterian churches will be holding four picnics this summer at which the students can socialize and eat a free meal.
“It’s just a welcoming thing – they play soccer, they do Frisbee and have free dinner for them,” she explained.
Bethany Beach resident Bob Parsons has also reached out to help the students, by collecting bikes for them to use as their main form of transportation.
“One of our local friends in the community, Bob Parsons, has a stash of bikes that he helps get up and running, and he actually loans them out to the students. And DelDOT donates bikes, as well.”
Despite that, Subity said that there is constantly a shortage of bikes for the students to use, and the group hopes to continue to receive bike donations to give out for the season.
“Over the past couple of years, whether bikes get lost or stolen, things happen. We’ve had a shortage of bikes for the students. We try to provide as many as we can so that the kids have a way of getting around,” she said. “Anybody who has resources, we are always at a shortage each year. We donate the bikes that DelDOT raffles off at each orientation to students, but we always have room for more.”
Since the students mostly ride their bikes to and from work, Subity emphasized the importance of bike safety. She noted that both the Bethany Beach and the Ocean View police departments offer bike checkpoints throughout the summer.
Bethany Beach will hold theirs on June 22 and July 11, next to Wawa on Route 26, from 8 to 11 a.m. Ocean View’s will be held at Taylor Bank on Route 26, on July 12 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Subity said that the international students who work in the resort area positively impact the local economy in a big way.
“The international students that come over here come before a lot of the local students who are currently in school get out. With our busy summer season starting earlier, rather than later, these days, they play a huge role in the local economy with helping getting our businesses fully staffed for the summer season.”
Emphasizing that the community support has been wonderful, Subity thanked those who have been involved in helping the committee’s outreach efforts grow.
“I want to say thank you to all of the organizations and the community members who have been a part of the committee and helping it grow over the years,” she said. “Just the community getting involved in helping welcome these students over here I think is tremendous.”
Students or businesses interested in sending their students to the free orientation or those wishing to donate a bike can email Kelly Fullerman at Kelly.fullerman@ResortQuest.com by May 31.