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Making Travel Possible Through Scholarships

The SYTA Youth Foundation (SYF) established the Road Scholarship program in 2002 to award funds to youth who are unable to afford the cost of student group trips.

We sat down with Hemisphere client, Janna Radarian, a Social Studies teacher for grades seven and eight at Imagine East Mesa School (IEM) in Mesa, Arizona, who applied for the Road Scholarship program and was awarded a $5,000 group scholarship.

How did you learn about the SYTA Youth Foundation Road Scholarship?

My Account Executive (Danny Lewandowski) sent an email to me about it because he thought I would be interested.

What was your reaction when you found out you were selected?

I found out about the scholarship almost after the deadline to respond to the news because it went into my junk mail. Luckily, I had a (rare) moment of boredom over winter break and thought of the release date for recipients. I went on the SYTA website and they specifically said to check junk mail inboxes if you had not heard news yet. It was sitting in our very aggressive junk mail net along with several other important emails.

I was alone in my home because my husband was out walking the dog. For that reason, my loud “Oh my gosh … oh my gosh … oh my gosh …” was an isolated elation. I called my principal right away and my first words to her were “guess what?” She responded with: “I hope it is good news,” because she had just heard that a staff member had broken her pelvis sledding, that another was in the hospital, and that one of our alumni had been in a car accident.

What a break!

Why should other educators apply for this scholarship?

Other educators should apply for this scholarship so they can truly provide all students, no matter their economic standing, with the opportunity to travel. I honestly believe my students learn more in our week in D.C. than they do during the two years that I teach them. After saying this to my group last year, one snide student responded with, “Then why do we have to go to your class? Why can’t we just go to D.C. for a week and call it quits?”

My reaction was a silent glare.

What trip are you planning to take and how many students get to attend?

We will be traveling to Washington, D.C. with 52 students.

Why were your students deserving of this scholarship?

The students that have been nominated have each struggled with being displaced from their living situations in the past three years. They have lived in hotels or shelters. Their families struggle to make ends meet yet want them to have this travel opportunity. Each student works very hard to ensure that they are learning even though food security and shelter are always a concern in their minds.

Our school supports them with food on the weekends, a safe place to stay after school with our aftercare program, and with free uniforms. We need help with raising the funds to send them with us to Washington, D.C. because traditional fundraising is not doing enough when these families cannot spare a dime.

What do you hope your students get out of the trip?

This trip connects strongly with the values of the school and country. It provides students with an opportunity to become socially aware of issues that are intertwined with our nation’s past and present. On one trip, students became emotional at the NMAAHC upon seeing an African American mother explaining exhibits and images to her six-year-old son.

Another year, students become upset at the Holocaust Museum when they witnessed a group from another school careening through the exhibits with little realization of the reverence and respect that the atrocities represented within the museum demand.

Planned and spontaneous opportunities for leadership and character growth occur on this trip. A former IEM eighth grader, Bri, wrote a letter requesting the honor of laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. To her surprise, she was chosen as one of the students to lay the wreath. This is a student who struggled to raise the funds to take the class trip to Washington D.C. and is an example to all that working hard for the D.C. trip is a practice that can open the door for a life changing opportunity.

Another year, a student became emotional at the Pentagon’s 9-11 Memorial upon finding the name of a relative. Watching other students rally around a peer during a moment like this, or just because a friend becomes dehydrated and exhausted, is a privilege for the adults fortunate enough to chaperone during this trip.

The stories this trip has provided are numerous, the memories priceless, and the impact on school life at IEM is profound. The Washington D.C. trip helps transform a diverse group of IEM eighth graders into engaged, caring citizens.

The 2020 Spring Road Scholarship application period is open until March 20, 2020. Learn more and apply today!

Written by Hemisphere Educational Travel