Setting up a structure for fundraising to support your students who want to travel is crucial regardless of their family income. Educational travel can be made attainable for all students if you create a plan and stick with it.
Carrie A. Olson, PhD, researcher and teacher at West Leadership Academy, Denver Public Schools, presented with Carylann Assante, CAE, executive director of SYTA and the SYTA Youth Foundation, in “How We Helped 800 Students Participate in Educational Travel: Proven Tools and Tips.” The experts shared tips on planning for educational travel to make it accessible for all students.
1. Look beyond base prices. When planning a trip for your students, start by figuring out how much money you will need and determine your deadlines. Travel companies may provide base prices, but this doesn’t include things like insurance, tip money, optional excursions, and more. Plan backwards with your money: This is how much money is needed, how much time is there until it’s due?
2. Create checkpoints. Creating checkpoints along the way leading up to the trip also helps keep everyone involved on track. Mentors—such as members of the community or a child’s favorite teacher—can help the students with their fundraising and check in with them if there are any issues.
3. Hold meetings for families. Holding regular monthly meetings, and providing that schedule to families at the beginning of the year, keeps everyone in the know. During the meetings at Olson’s school, teachers would introduce families to each other. Fostering these community connections encouraged families to fundraise together.
4. Provide “exit tickets.” They also created an information packet to review at the very first meeting, explaining all the details of educational travel. At the end of the packet, the families were asked the fill out an “exit ticket.” If anyone had to leave the meeting early, or wanted to be contacted privately, they could say so on this form.
5. Create fundraisers that are good for your school. Be creative, have a variety of fundraisers for families to get involved in, and research what sells well at your school. Examples of fundraisers include working school dances, selling concessions at school, home-cooked food to school staff, holiday grams, and wristbands for a pass to go without the school uniform for a day. Olson’s school hosted breakfasts and “happy hours” for potential donors, where students could ask for donations by explaining to people why they wanted to travel. The best piece of fundraising advice Olson received from a parent’s perspective was to hold a gathering for family and friends to ask how they can help fundraise for the student who wanted to participate in educational travel.
6. Consider focus groups. Before starting a fundraiser, you’ll need to find out details like any approved vendors you need to go through, contracts that need to be signed, and if other fundraisers are going on at the school so you can plan around them. It could also help to create a focus group to provide a place for families to contribute fundraising ideas outside of regularly scheduled meetings. Last, have one person in charge of each fundraiser, so that person can be responsible for checking in with families.
“If you (make the effort) with your very-beginning trips, and you think through a lot of this, the future trips are much, much easier,” Olson added. By working through the smallest details, educational travel can be made attainable for all your students.
About the Presenters
Carrie A. Olson, PhD, teaches grades 6-12 at West Leadership Academy in Denver Public Schools where she has taught since 1985. She teaches social studies in Spanish and English classes to recent immigrants and an AP seminar class. Her PhD is in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from the University of Denver. She received her BA from Wartburg College and her master’s in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in language, literacy, and culture from the University of Colorado at Denver. Dr. Olson is a National Board Certified Teacher since 1999. She is also a Museum Teacher Fellow for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She has traveled with over 800 students to Washington, DC since 1993 and to Europe since 2003, and is passionate about providing equity in educational travel for students.
A seasoned tourism and association executive with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Carylann Assante, CAE serves as the Executive Director of the Student & Youth Travel Association, the international association that promotes student and youth travel worldwide. Carylann is also the Executive Director of the SYTA Youth Foundation, the philanthropic arm that provides scholarships and education experiences for students and youth who are unable to travel due to financial and personal hardship.
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