Five years ago, we founded Farther Foundation with some anecdotal evidence and a gut instinct that experience is the best educator – particularly for students who come from families and neighborhoods burdened by socio-economic disadvantage. We believed that a chance to travel for a few weeks to a place like Tanzania would awaken, in a bright student like Alicia (right), the confidence and aspiration to change the trajectory of her life.
Five years later, Farther Foundation has awarded more than $180,000 in scholarships to 84 students who have participated in educational programs in 20 states as well as 28 countries on six continents. They have immersed themselves in the language and culture of host families in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, studied on 15 college campuses, helped build villages in third-world countries and participated in archeological digs in the Southwest. The data collected on their return proves we were right. The travel opportunities the Farther Foundation sponsored have had a profound, and undeniably life changing effect on the students participating in the program.
How do we know? We survey our participants and their parents after the students participate in their travel programs. They whole-heartedly tell us that:
• Students learned about subjects, and gained life experience, unavailable to them at home;
• Students had grown in confidence and knowledge
• Students were excited about their future opportunities; and
• Students and their parents alike understood the essential role college graduation will play in achieving their goals.
These post-travel aspirations have turned into concrete results. Every Farther Foundation student (of graduation age) has graduated high school. 95% have gone directly on to college, and all but one of those are enrolled in college today and are on track to earn a degree. Compare that to their Chicago Public School peers where roughly 58% of students graduate high school, about half that number go on to college, and less than half of those students achieve a four-year college degree within six years. That is impact worth investing in and celebrating.
No doubt a scholarship for educational travel sounds like a big investment to make in one student. Farther Foundation students receive anywhere from $500 to $4,000 for their programs. The return, however, is many-fold. The choice to go to college, or to select and gain admission to the best fit college, will make a huge difference in a student’s future earning potential and quality of life. Deserving low-income students with the experience and confidence gained from taking advantaged of educational travel also can, and have, earned tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships. Additionally, the example our students set models achievement and defines a pathway to success for siblings, friends and classmates.
Alicia is a high school senior this year and believes that her travel to Tanzania last summer has significantly altered her life ambitions and future educational plans. How much harder will she work knowing more now about the opportunities that are available to her? How will she expand her college search now that she has seen more of the world and has the experience of being away from home? How will her family view her, her opportunities and her potential after her summer achievements? What self-imposed limits have been lifted?
Our alumnus Gabriel provides a great answer. During the summer of 2010, a Farther Foundation scholarship allowed Gabriel to spend a month in France studying language, history and culture. In his application Gabriel described himself as a person who “has always worked hard for all my achievements.” His application sponsor further said that he would “take full advantage of his opportunity and use it to help others.”
That was an understatement. Since returning from his experience in France, Gabriel graduated from high school and now attends Tufts University. He quickly became president of the Association of Latin American Students, the co-chair of the Boston Intercollegiate Latin American Network and one of four students in the faculty-run Social Justice Committee. Now in his junior year, Gabriel will study in Madrid this spring where he expects to intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Gabriel’s success is spectacular, but it is a story similar to those of the many students we have worked with over the past five years. Significantly, we now have students from our first program year in their senior year at college and on track to graduate from schools including: The University of Chicago, Colgate, Williams, Vassar, Kalamazoo and the Universities of Illinois and Wisconsin. Their graduation day will be a proud day not only to them and their families, but will be yet another marker that what started as a hunch five years ago has paid amazing dividends.
We need your help to continue this pattern of success. The funds you give go directly to supporting the students involved in the educational travel. We hope we can count on your support this year to help more students achieve their highest potential. Our students greatly appreciate your generous contributions and you can count on them to take full advantage of the opportunities you help provide. Click to our “Donate Now” page to make your tax deductible contribution today.