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‘Life-Changing’ College Program Aids Students Facing Instability

Opening Doors Abroad

MIAMI, Fla.--In March 2017, Carol Reyes, global education director at Miami Dade College, organized what she called a “summit” to inform students on the benefits of studying abroad.

“We wanted to explain the importance of how it would enhance their education, the skills they would learn and so forth,” she recalled.

The afternoon of the event, she met a student in the halls and invited her. “I told her, ‘We have free dinner.’ Students love free food,” Ms. Reyes said.

The student agreed to attend, and expressed interest afterward in joining one of the classes going abroad that summer. At the end of the conversation, she told Ms. Reyes, “Oh by the way, I’m homeless, is that a problem?”

Ms. Reyes was taken aback. She knew challenging backgrounds were not uncommon among the 165,000 students at Miami Dade, a two-year college that focuses on associate degrees but that also offers several bachelor’s programs. But she hadn’t realized any of the students were homeless.

This young woman was part of Educate Tomorrow, a Miami-based nonprofit group that operates on Miami Dade College’s eight campuses, offering about 400 people mentoring and support for academic and life skills.

“These are students who were in foster homes, or a series of temporary homes, or maybe they were raised by a grandmother,” said Wendy Joseph, who oversees the Educate Tomorrow program at the college. (Tuition is also waived for these students.)

Ms. Reyes approached Educate Tomorrow about creating a program that would enable its students to study overseas. Although Ms. Reyes later left Miami Dade to pursue graduate studies at Dartmouth College, the resulting partnership, called Educate Tomorrow Abroad, is now in its third year. The program covers the eligible students’ travel expenses, with assistance from Delta Air Lines, which pays their airfare.

By the end of this summer, Educate Tomorrow Abroad will have sent nine students on study trips to Europe and Central America (including the young woman who attended the 2017 summit and went to Costa Rica as part of an environmental class that summer).

One of Miami Dade’s overseas offerings last year was an English class with a name sure to stir many a millennial heart: “Introduction to Literature: From ‘Harry Potter’ to ‘Game of Thrones.’” Among the 15 students who registered for Lit 2000 was Lorvely Prevert, 23, a self-described Potterhead and GoT fan.

The six-week summer class was built around a 12-day trip to London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin. Ms. Prevert--a native of Haiti who spent much of her childhood in a foster home--hadn’t been on a plane since arriving in Miami as a child. “At first, I was scared,” she said. “It was something I’d never done before.”

But after seeing actual castles used in the filming of “Game of Thrones” (not to mention Windsor Castle, which the class visited on a side trip); sailing on a Scottish lake; and visiting the Balmoral Hotel suite in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling wrote “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” she was as spellbound as a first-year Hogwarts student.

“You see these places on TV or in the movies and then in real life, it’s so different,” said Ms. Prevert, an Educate Tomorrow student who graduated with her associate degree from Miami Dade and intends to get a bachelor’s.

She calls last summer’s trip “a life-changing experience.”

Of course, that’s what studying abroad is supposed to be; but few community college students, homeless or not, have typically had the opportunity. ..To read more, subscribe to the blackchronicle newspaper

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