City parks and rec partners with CIEE to host international college students


Cullman approved as host city for J-1 Visa Program through partnership with Council on International Educational Exchange

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism (CPRST) Executive Director Nathan Anderson on Wednesday morning proudly announced that Cullman has been approved as a host city for the J-1 Visa Program through a partnership with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). CPRST will provide a cultural experience to nearly 24 college students from around the world who will be welcomed to WildWater for a 12-week work internship. The program will also help the park address end-of-season employment gaps experienced in 2022.

It was during the 2022 World Waterpark Association conference – where WildWater received the prestigious Leading Edge Award as one of only six exceptional water parks honored worldwide last year – that the idea of an international internship with college students emerged.

Said Anderson, “We discovered that other parks had achieved tremendous success in filling seasonal gaps in staffing with international college students looking for a cultural work experience through the CIEE organization. This is a common practice in the industry, especially in cases where there is a pressing staffing need within a short time frame.”

“Staffing the entire season has always been a formidable task, especially after we expanded,” said WildWater Aquatics Director Dianne Evans. “High school students comprise the majority of our workforce, and, understandably, they often resign their positions in late July to return to school, leaving us with a tremendous staffing shortage for the final five weeks of the season.”

Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer acknowledged that becoming an approved host city for the J-1 Visa Program is a significant accomplishment for Cullman, making it the first city in north and central Alabama to receive the approval.

“This could lead to other great partnerships with local industry in the area and possibly benefit Wallace State Community College,” he said, “as it will introduce the international student travel program to our local students.”

Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs expressed his excitement for the program as well, saying, “This is an opportunity to showcase the warmth and hospitality of this community, affirming Cullman as an exceptional place to work and call home.”

“WildWater Park eagerly embraces this initiative, which demonstrates its commitment to delivering exceptional experiences to park visitors while fostering cultural exchange and supporting the local economy,” said a release from CPRST.