During the course of the last three summers, 48 low-income, Chicago area high school students have participated in enrichment programs around the world with the aid of Farther Foundation grants. While on their programs, these students had unique experiences that opened their eyes to a new world of possibilities and raised their expectations for what they could achieve in their education and in their lives.
The investment Farther Foundation makes in these eager and deserving students is paying off. In an environment where only about 54% of Chicago Public High School students are graduating, Farther Foundation supported students are graduating high school and enrolling in college at a 100% rate.
One of these students is Ryan. Ryan and his brother are being raised by his mother alone on a very modest income. He receives academic support and mentoring through HighSight, a great organization that also encouraged him to travel abroad last summer in pursuit of new horizons. Here is what Ryan had to say about his adventure in China with The Experiment in International Living:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I have a thousand pictures, and they don’t begin to tell the story of my trip to China. I spent five weeks, thousands of miles from my hometown on the other side of the world. I remember looking around at my crewmates, who were all so homesick, and realizing that I didn’t feel homesick at all. I felt free. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago, I love my home, but spending five weeks on my own, trying to survive in a foreign country with a group of people I hardly knew? I felt like I was in my element.
When we landed in Hong Kong, I remember I spent about ten minutes looking out the massive Terminal windows at the city nestled beneath a mountain. I thought, “Wow, this is China? Amazing.” It turns out that I was looking at a rinky-dink town that was basically a suburb of the REAL Hong Kong. And the mountain that I gazed at in awe, wondering at its age and splendor? Pheh. That was nothing compared to what came next.
Beijing, Capital City of the People’s Republic of China. Luoyang, City of the Promenade. Guiyang, mountainous Capital City of the mountainous Province of Guilin. Yangshuo, Western Hotspot in the middle of the East. Shanghai, Crown Jewel of the Chinese Coast. All these places and more, I can still see in my head, I can still feel them in my body. I can feel the rumble of the hard-seat overnight train, I can see the tiny plane that was shorter than a 40-yard pass, I can remember the gritty concrete road under the tires of my rental bike, and the gravel biting into my leg as the tires slid out from under me. The sting of the alcohol pads, the smell of the lychees my friend stuffed into my bag, the burst of the dumplings in my mouth later at dinner were all sensations that have enriched my entire existence. There can be zero doubt in my mind that I am forever changed by this glorious experience.
Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.