Editor’s note: The following is a sponsored article, meaning that Global Atlanta was compensated for its publication and consulted on the production of the piece. It was written by John Eaves, founder and executive director of Global Youth Ambassadors Program and the former chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners
Since getting my first passport 30 years ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit more than 50 countries and experience diverse cultures, wonderful people, beautiful landscapes, and fascinating ways of life.
Unfortunately, relatively few Georgians embrace this privilege, with just over a third of our state’s citizens carrying a passport— even less than the national average of 48 percent.
The shortfall is even more pronounced in minority and underprivileged communities, where the financial realities can be more stark and the benefits of international education can seem more remote.
But lacking the necessary government ID should never disqualify young people, especially those still in high school, from availing themselves a world of transformative opportunities that lie beyond U.S. borders. And if Atlanta is to reach its full potential as a global city, it must help its students forge a global mindset from a young age.
That’s why in 2019 I’m launching the Passport to the World Challenge, which aims to provide 250 high school students in metro Atlanta with a free passport and an opportunity to participate in a global leadership experience.
This initiative is open to any high school student, but I am targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds who typically do not have opportunities for international experiences. Once in hand, the passport would allow students to participate in leadership trips I’m planning this year through the Global Youth Ambassadors Program, which I started in 2008 while serving as chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
The GYAP helps young people become competitive in the global economy through leadership development, foreign language instruction, cultural competence training, community service, and international travel.
In 10 years, we’ve taken 250 students to such exciting countries as Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, and Turkey. Many participating students were without a passport before starting the application process. Some had never been on a plane until we departed.
High schools on board so far with Passport to the World include Booker T. Washington, Druid Hills, Fulton Leadership Academy, Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Riverwood, and Westlake, but we’ll need even more partner schools to reach our ambitious goal.
We’ve already elicited partnerships with key educational organizations, including the Georgia State University Center for International Business Education and Research, Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta, and Morehouse College Bonner Scholars Program.
We’d also welcome deeper relationships with companies as well as the Georgia consular corps, with whom we hope to build the GYAP into a key conduit for exchange with their countries.
Atlanta is a city that has been built on bold ideas, and this one is no different. I invite Global Atlanta readers to partner with me as I endeavor to help our young people explore an increasingly interconnected world. The dividends — both for Atlanta and for these students — will be immense and long-lasting.
Dr. John Eaves is founder and executive director of the Global Youth Ambassadors Program, which has taken more than 250 high schoolers overseas for transformative educational experiences over the past decade. A seasoned public servant, he also is the former chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and candidate for mayor of Atlanta. An avid supporter of international education, he also formerly served as the regional director of the Peace Corps office for the Southeast U.S.
Learn more about the program in the video below: