Cross-cultural, international travel for African American Youth

Development of cultural competence to be a constructive contributor to the life of the world

For over fifty years, YoFresh Foundation co-founders, Larry and Jean Murphy, have traveled extensively,  through the United States; on the continents of Africa, Europe, South America; in the Caribbean Islands; and in the South Pacific.  Experiences  in the course of those travels made us deeply aware of the tremendously formative effect cross-cultural, international travel has on one's sense of place in the world; one's appreciation for the diversity of the world; the cultural competence one gains through genuine engagement, firsthand, of that diversity; and therefore, one's ability to be a constructive contributor to the world.  These benefits have been immeasurable resources in our professional careers as educators and  organizational leaders, as well as in our work as community activists.  Yet, as we traversed the cities and towns of other countries, explored their institutions, and immersed ourselves in their lifeways, we noted that while youth of European ethnicities were abundantly represented on the trains, planes, and other means of transport and were very visible as cultural explorers and learners in those venues, African American youth travelers were a rare occurrence.  Thus, African American youth were missing out on the opportunity to gain the valuable social capital that would enable them to sit as informed peers in circles of public leadership and policy formation, and across the spectrum of places where decisions are made and structures put in place that shape the course of human well-being and social advancement.  We had come to see that travel is education. Seeing the world provides an education that one simply cannot get in school. No matter where you go, you’ll see customs and traditions wildly different from your own. It enables one to become a true global citizen who cares about international current events and to see their connection to events in one's own home community; one comes to realize that their personal and vocational responsibility reaches further than just the corner of the world where they live. And so, travel equips youth with the tools to be active leaders in their local and global communities. Youth begin their journey as learners, but then they return with a clearer understanding of who they are, who the people of the world are, and how they can be contributors to the world's good . It is for this reason that our not-for-profit foundation [EIN No. 87-3231688] seeks to identify African American high school juniors and seniors and college undergraduates who are appropriate candidates to undertake such travel experiences and to award grants toward the costs of their excursions.

To be considered for a travel award, applicants will submit: 1) A letter of Intent outlining Intended travel, projected costs, and what they seek and expect to gain from the experience; 2) Transcripts indicating a minimum overall GPA of 2.5; 3) two letters of support from faculty or advisors; 4. A letter of parental permission/consent, where appropriate. Upon return from their journey, recipients will be expected to present an essay describing their learnings, growth points, and specific ways they anticipate sharing the experience and using it in their studies, their work in community organizations, and in their projected vocations.

The foundation partners with established-high school and college travel programs, such as the following:

Global Visionaries Cultural Immersion & Service Program, which "seeks to challenge and transform young people into socially and environmentally conscious global leaders."

Smithsonian Student Travel, which "fosters the power that comes through immersive experiences, allowing students to deepen knowledge, expand cultural awareness, and become global citizens and active participants in shaping the future."  

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We personally meet with our student travelers and their parents/guardians to equip them, in coordination with other sponsoring partners, for maximizing the benefits of their upcoming journey. This includes introducing them to information on: - The history and culture of the place they are about to visit; - Important customs and social practices that they need to be aware of during their stay; - Basic local language and communication terms that will be useful in their interactions; - Questions and concerns they may have as they anticipate the journey. Upon return, we assist in the important process of debriefing the journey: reflecting on their experiences; articulating what they saw and heard and learned about both the larger world and themselves; and sorting through how they will build upon the experience as they go forward in their education and their future vocational lives. Then, we will provide a public platform for the traveler to report on their journey and its experiential highlights, and to share what it meant, and will mean, for them.

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