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New Study Abroad Initiative Helps Middle School Students Explore The World

By Sharelle Burt


Students are becoming more and more curious as to what the world has to offer outside of their neighborhoods.


Thanks to a unique program at the University of Texas at Austin, some kids will get their chance to explore. The 100 Passport Giveaway is a new initiative introduced by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement’s Austin Future Global Leaders program encouraging middle schoolers to study abroad.


Created by the Director of the Office of Global Leadership and Social Impact, Dr. Devin Walker and DDCE Assistant Vice Principal Patrick Patterson, 100 eighth grade students will receive a passport for free of charge, thanks to the DDCE’s Neighborhood Longhorns Program. The purpose of this project focuses on students from underrepresented backgrounds. “Providing eighth-graders with passports allows them to see beyond their current situation, dream big and reimagine possibilities for themselves and their communities,” Dr. Walker says. “Passports are like the gift that keeps on giving.”


The initiative is designed to develop students into leaders by learning real-world skills like cultural proficiency, entrepreneurship, civic leadership, teambuilding, and global citizenship. During the school year, Dr. Walker hopes to continue educating middle schoolers on the importance of traveling abroad and most importantly, building leadership and character skills.


Here is how it works. Students are recruited from the local middle schools that participate in the Neighborhood Longhorns Program. After they complete the program, students will get the chance to study abroad in Beijing, China in the summer of 2020. The 10-day trip is set to provide a rich curriculum of experiential learning.


Many people have benefited from studying abroad at a young age. Dave Aladejobi from Washington, D.C. said he was scared in the beginning when he went to Jordan, but it helped him open his eyes to things outside his world. ” I had my moments when I was like I wouldn’t go because I don’t want to be kidnapped or killed, especially since the news is like Arabs hate Americans but we were treated better than at home,” Aladejobi said. “I think my biggest take away was the world is huge! When I got out there and experienced things like swimming in the Dead Sea and meeting the queen of Jordan, I don’t know many people that could say they have!”


The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement is a national model for integrating diversity and community engagement into the core mission of a university. The Division focuses on four core pillars: campus culture, community engagement, education pipeline, and research in hopes of helping universities connecting with the communities they serve and offering education to help those who are facing certain challenges.

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