J-1 international student workers heading to OBX

By on May 18, 2024

J-1 students on last year’s sunset cruise hosted by Outreach Ministries OBX. (Photo courtesy of Pastor David Daniels)

‘We want to make them feel like they’re our family’ says Pastor David Daniels

By Maggie Miles | Outer Banks Voice

One sure sign of summer is the start of Pastor David Daniels’ weekly dinners for the J-1 International Students, a tradition that is more than 20 years old. His non-profit, Outreach Ministries OBX, will hold its first dinner this season on June 11—and then every Tuesday throughout the summer until Aug. 20, when the final dinner will be on a sunset cruise.

The J-1 Visa program gives college and university students enrolled full time and pursuing studies at post-secondary institutions outside the United States the opportunity to live and work here during summer vacation. It not only provides a cultural exchange, but also plays a crucial role in supporting the local economy by helping employers fill crucial roles during the busy summer months.

The students are starting to arrive on the Outer Banks from around the world. And while officials can’t yet provide a definitive number expected this summer, Pastor Daniels predicts that there should be around 1,200 to 1,500 J-1 students in total—indicating a gradual return to pre-Covid-19 numbers which were around 2,000 students each summer.

Other than the dinners, Outreach Ministries offers a range of services for the J-1 students, from providing vans for transportation to helping eligible students enroll in the College of the Albemarle (COA).

“We believe it’s part of our ministry to welcome these students and help them have a good summer. They’re not used to our culture. We have different food, a different language. You know, and some of them have had some bad experiences here,” says Pastor Daniels.

Jamie Banjak, the founder and chair of the OBX International Student Outreach Program (ISOP), says these students are invited here and fill key roles, and it’s the community’s responsibility to look out for them. “The reality is most of these students work two to three jobs. They pay to come and work here. You know, without them, there’s a lot of businesses that would be absolutely crippled.”

But this summer, ISOP will be on hiatus while Banjak undergoes treatment out of state for cancer after a diagnosis in November. For the last decade, ISOP’s mission was to provide a safe and successful experience for the students. Each summer, it offered bicycle lights, reflective gear and orientations to educate them about safety and cultural opportunities in the area.

According to Banjak, ISOP was founded in 2012 to deal with issues specific to the Outer Banks that the international students were confronted with—including hurricane preparation and evacuation plans, lack of public transportation, the dangers of biking and walking on the dangerous roads, etc. She has done the work out of her house on a volunteer basis.

Before COVID, ISOP had visa sponsors, employers, local organizations and the State Department gather together for regular committee meetings where they organized projects and initiatives.

Given her current circumstances, Banjak had no choice but to disband the group. But she will be back visiting on Memorial Day weekend and is hoping to have a meeting to revive and reinvigorate the group. Updates can be found at the OBX ISOP Facebook page or by emailing obxisop@gmail.com.

“The Outer Banks Community Support Group [ISOP]…has enhanced our exchange programming in the region,” said a spokesperson from the U.S. State Department, which oversees the J-1 program. “We hope they are able to resume their participation in the near future. Community Support Groups like the one in the Outer Banks are volunteer-led organizations.”

According to the State Department, there are 20 businesses that will employ J-1 students on the Outer Banks this summer.  Lana Volodina, HR generalist at Dairy Queen, told the Voice that Dairy Queen provides housing for its six yearly J-1 students—housing that is within walking distance from Dairy Queen.

 Volodina also sends an email to the students before they arrive in the U.S. that shares safety information and information on how to get an Uber from the airport to the Outer Banks. Typically they take their students to the OBX ISOP event for their Social Security cards, so this year they will have to figure out a way to get them to the Social Security office in Elizabeth City.

A representative from Food Lion corporate headquarters shared with the Voice that the company provides housing and bikes for its students and tries to communicate with and support their students as much as possible on a local level.

Mark Ballog, owner of Lucky 12 Tavern in Nags Head, told the Voice he provides housing for his six summer students, as well as bikes, bike lights, and transportation to Elizabeth City for their Social Security numbers.

The Voice reached out to Harris Teeter to ask about the J-1 students they employ but did not receive a response.

And then there’s the “grandpa” of the international students, Pastor Daniels. In addition to the Outreach Ministries OBX dinner, it is also a game night and an opportunity for the students to get advice and support. All of the meals are homecooked and any leftovers are sent home in boxes with the students. 

Outreach Ministries also has two vans and will help the international students with transportation. The group has also used the vans to take the students on trips if they show interest in visiting certain places—and trips have been organized to locales as close as Jockey’s Ridge State Park and as far as Williamsburg, VA.

The non-profit also helps send eligible international students to the COA. Pastor Daniels says currently there are 200 international students at COA, and his organization has helped pay the tuition for many of them. He also helps J-1 students network with businesses in their potential fields.

“They’ve touched us,” he says. “There’s something special about the international students. In their countries, they have strong family ties. We want to make them feel like they’re our family.”



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).



  • Glenn

    Welcome to all the students! Hope you have a fun, safe & rewarding summer in the beautiful OBX!

    Sunday, May 19 @ 6:50 am
  • tim

    Are these the summer workers we used to get from Ukraine pre-covid? Welcome to them in any case.

    Sunday, May 19 @ 9:12 am