This summer, while members of the U.S. military stationed across the globe are looking out for American interests, Matt Dutkevicz will be looking out for theirs.
The University of Toledo sophomore is one of about 50 area college students who will lead day camps for children - most of them on military bases - as part of a youth services program called Camp Adventure.
For the first time, UT has been chosen as a regional training center for the nonprofit program founded in 1985 to help meet the needs of children of military families in South Korea.
Since then it has expanded to offer a variety of summer camps in 18 countries at U.S. military installations, U.S. embassies, and corporate clubs and associations.
The opportunity to travel to a naval base in Spain was attractive to Mr. Dutkevicz, a Spanish and education major from Uniontown, Ohio, but the chance to do something for his country was a motivating factor as well.
“Under the nation's circumstances, it's definitely a good feeling to give something back without signing up for the National Guard,” Mr. Dutkevicz said.
Stephanee Shaffer, a UT junior from North Royalton, Ohio, who will be joining him in Spain, agreed.
“It's kind of like what I can do to help out in a way,” she said.
“It's also a challenge. Military kids have so many issues that they have to deal with that civilian kids don't need to deal with.”
So far, U.S. military actions around the world and the threat of terrorist attacks have had a minimal effect on the program, according to Thomas J. Switzer, UT's dean of education.
He brought the program with him from his former post at the University of Northern Iowa, where it is based.
“[Students] are probably as safe in these environments as they are anywhere,” he said.
The only changes in travel plans were because of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, he said.
A couple of students originally assigned to camps in China were transferred to other sites.
Many of the area students - most from UT, but also a few from Bowling Green State University, Owens Community College, and elsewhere - will be leaving around June 10 for their camps, which last from eight to 10 weeks.
The program is paid for almost entirely by the military or other contracting agents and the student participants.
Students serve as counselors and gain experience working with youths. In addition, they are able to travel and experience another culture.
“I've seen everything from the Eiffel Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” said Sammy Spann, program coordinator at UT who has taken part in Camp Adventure for about six years. “I've seen the Pope in his Pope-mobile. I've climbed Mount Fuji.”
Dr. Switzer said the experience is great for building leadership qualities in students.
It also allows participants to receive up to 12 hours of college credit.
“It's one of the best examples of service learning that you'll ever encounter for college students,” he said.
It's also patriotic, he said.
“A lot of young people today do not serve in the military, and [with this] they have a chance to experience the military way of life,” he said.
“It's a way of serving your country in a very unique way.”