Task Force Reports On Work With Foreign Staffers

OCEAN CITY – Despite lingering problems, the Ocean City Task Force and visiting students had a successful summer this year, according to the 2007 Quality of Life Report.

Brooks Trimper, member of the Task Force, presented the City Council with the Quality of Life Report at Tuesday’s work session. The task force, which was created by the Mayor and Council in 2006, works to examine the problems that the summer student employees, particularly foreign students, face each year. The Task Force works to find answers for housing, theft, jobs and health.

Trimper explained that although the task force is charged with handling the problems of all the students, American and foreign, the American students usually turn to their parents or family for help rather than the local task force.

The task force also works with 19 sponsors to solve problems ranging from employers to housing. Trimper said sponsors can solve the majority of the problems, but the task force works with sponsors and students to make sure all issues are resolved.

Handbooks were printed and distributed to students at the beginning of the summer season. Trimper explained that the books are in English, due to the difficulty in pinpointing another common language among the students.

Trimper said this year’s efforts were also geared toward employers with a one-page newsletter sent out.

“Really what we geared toward this year was educating the employer as well,” Trimper said.

The newsletter contained Department of State rules for employers, students and sponsors. The newsletter was also re-circulated mid-summer after students voiced complaints that they were unable to find jobs.

“Housing was available although students complained that the rent was too high or in some cases, the deposits were not refundable,” read the report.

One student was hospitalized for malnutrition for lack of food after receiving threats from the landlord regarding money. Other students received threats that their visas would be cancelled if they did not pay certain fees, unknown fees that were added on once they moved in. The problems were addressed and cleared up through the efforts of the task force and sponsors.

Problems with employers remained despite efforts to better educate. Fifteen students complained of not being paid by employers.

“In the past two seasons, offending employers (about eight) have become well known to the task force,” the report said.

Fake job offers also continue to be a problem with 43 fake job offers reported this year. According to the report, “Job authorization is still a problem as some students know they are purchasing fake offers and others are surprised to find they are employed at a vacant lot or are not on any employers list.”

According to the report, the ongoing theft issue has waned over the past few seasons as more students opt to open bank accounts. Bank of America and BB&T made multilingual employees available at City Hall on Social Security days. As a result, 3,000 students opened accounts.

Activities were planned for the students with the help of several local churches. Six local churches provided 3,000 free meals this year. Trimper reported that students enjoyed the meals and requested that they continue. The coffee hour on Friday nights, provided by the Baptist Church, were also a hit.

Trimper explained that a common complaint has been the local bus station, which many students refer to as, “the armpit of downtown.” He explained that the station could provide a poor first impression of Ocean City for students arriving overnight or in the early slower months of summer.

Trimper reported the overall success of the task force’s second season, noting that several cities are emulating the effort. Ocean View, Del., Princess Anne and Virginia Beach are all working with the task force to create similar systems. Trimper reported that the students are pleased as well.

“We had a very positive reaction from the students this year,” he said.