“Fewer than one percent of high school students study abroad and less than three percent of college students do. And just a tiny fraction of those are students of color and/or low-income students,” Hayden explains. “We have to prepare our youth if we want to be successful as a nation and world leaders in the 21st century.”
Approximately 100 students per year from eight public Seattle-area high schools participate in the weekly after-school program, which began in 2002. It offers leadership workshops, world language classes (including Arabic and Chinese), summer language camps and study abroad opportunities for underserved students.
“We take time to prepare students for study abroad, to set them up for success,” says Hayden. She emphasizes that the combination of leadership and language is a powerful one. “The leadership program is essential. It gives them the framework to be open to the experience they’re having and take advantage of it.” The program also helps students deal with re-entry after their trips, so they can understand the reality of what they experienced abroad.