Mark Twain once said “one must travel to learn”, but for many, that’s easier said than done. And that’s why a local organization is making way for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students in Boston.
India Jeopardy is just one way these teenagers at the Yawkey Boys and Girls Club in Roxbury are learning about the country they soon hope to visit. It’s part of a competition program called Explore India, but actually going on the trip is not a given. The program is sponsored by the Fish Family Foundation, which picks up the tab for each student, which can cost as much as $5000.
“The classes are not an easy thing," said 15-year-old Gernell Reed. "You don’t get a free ride to India. You have to work for your spot. Just like anything else in life you have to work for it.”
Twenty-one students start the once-a-week class at the club in May. By November 1st, 10 winners are selected for the two-week, all-expenses-paid trip that happens in February.
The students are given scores based on attendance and how they do on quizzes. "That's how they earn their spot," said Adam Chaprnka, the program director. "It’s really important for us to have them know that this trip is not a free trip. It’s a trip they’re gonna have to earn by showing us they want to learn.”
Once selected, students are only responsible for their passport and Indian visa, and even those are covered if it’s a hardship.
The Yawkey Boys and Girls club has been running the program for the past seven years and has sent 66 students to India. Andrea Swain is Executive Director of the club,
“India is a game changer. It transforms young people to understand their value respect and give them a world outside of their block, their neighborhood.” said Andrea Swain, executive director of the club. “It’s been amazing to watch them transform ... and how they come back. They are so appreciative of their schools their communities.”
It’s an experience that has been life changing for many, like 19-year-old Sadiq Ervin who went in 2014. He’s now attending Boston College.
“It was incredible," said Ervin. "As we stepped into the airport, it was beautiful. You see all the different hand gestures that Ghandi made all over the international airport.”
Ervin said the trip opened his mind, but also changed how people saw him. Reed hopes she’ll soon have India tales of her own to tell.
“To be going to another part of the world that’s completely different from where we are — it's crazy to believe that I could be going there possibly for free,” she said.