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Group Helps Inner City Youth See The World


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Travel can mean all sorts of things. Exploring countries overseas, just going into the city or to the next town over means new experiences.

On this week's Winging It, we talked to Anise Hayes. She's the executive director of Atlantic Impact. It is a nonprofit based in Detroit, Michigan, that's making those experiences available to students who have never left the country or even the city before. Anise, welcome to the program.

ANISE HAYES: Hi, thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: Thanks for being here. So just tell me how this whole idea began.

HAYES: So this idea actually began in Armenia. I was working with a program, and I had the opportunity to travel throughout the country. And the program director kind of talked about the experience of travel and why travel is meaningful. And I really thought to myself, this is an experience that I would like to provide for youth or for students who otherwise don't have the opportunity to travel.

MARTIN: It's more than just travel, though, right?

HAYES: It is.

MARTIN: Students are part of an actual class. There's a curriculum to teach them about all kinds of aspects of exploring another culture. Can you tell me about that?

HAYES: So we actually operate now as a class during the school day. We have teachers that work with us to teach this class. So once a month, they go out and explore different historical sites in Detroit. And then that helps prepare them for their international travel opportunity that they have during the summer.

MARTIN: How do you decide where to go?

HAYES: So we base a lot of the history that we talk about around the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. It's a history that has a lot of personal connections to our students. So our first year of doing the program we went to England. And we went to Bristol, England, which was one of the largest slave trade ports. And then last year, we went to Barbados, and we explored that entire country. It's not very big so it's pretty easy to do. And then again this year, we will be going to Barbados.

MARTIN: What kind of feedback to get from the kids?

HAYES: The students that we worked with never really believed that they would ever be traveling anywhere. So even getting them to kind of see what an opportunity that travel is for them is a pretty big obstacle. Seeing a kid who's never been anywhere get on a plane for the first time and hold onto the armrest out of a little bit of concern...


HAYES: ...It's a pretty powerful experience for youth who grew up in pretty challenging circumstances.

MARTIN: So I have to ask - private donations or how are you being funded?

HAYES: So our schools provide funding for the class that we put in each school. So they support the class and some of the staffing that goes along with that. And that really has provided a catalyst for people to help pay for the international travel experience. So we received foundation support and also individual donations because they see that the schools are supporting this through funding so they want to actually support that as well.

MARTIN: So all expenses paid?

HAYES: Yeah. We pay for everything. They're required to pay for their own passports so they have a challenge in paying for that oftentimes. So we do not want the overall travel experience to be a burden for them.

MARTIN: And lastly, how do you decide what students get to participate? I mean, I can imagine that demand would be pretty high.

HAYES: Shockingly, that's not always the case. In our communities that we work in, travel is something that's very fearful. We're actually in an application cycle right now, and I was talking to one of our teachers. And we pass out over 100 applications, and we got one back so far.


HAYES: So travel is something that we really have to push as an opportunity. We are trying to help people in our communities understand that exploring new things and going to new places and having new opportunities is vitally important and helps our students get into college. It helps them really understand the world around them. So at the end of the day, that's really, you know, what we try to push is the opportunity through travel.

MARTIN: Anise Hayes. She is the executive director of the Detroit nonprofit Atlantic Impact. Thanks so much for talking with us, Anise.

HAYES: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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