JOPLIN, Mo. —
A group of Joplin teachers is working to form a nonprofit organization that would give high school students the opportunity to travel abroad.
The goal of the organization, called Immersion in Cultural Education, or ICE, would be to reach beyond the classroom and develop global-minded individuals through opportunities to travel abroad, said Shelly Tarter, a 21st century learning coach with the Joplin School District. Short-term travel opportunities would be open to current high school students and recent graduates, their parents or guardians, Joplin school district staff and community business partners; an application process would be required.
“We want to make sure that our students are very well-rounded students globally and they understand other people’s perspectives,” Tarter said.
Chris Young, who teaches French at Joplin High School, has previously organized and chaperoned five or six different short-term trips to Europe. Students visited museums and other historical sites, and also participated in cultural activities, such as flamenco dancing in Spain.
“The kids have always kind of wanted to go on these trips to experience something different,” he said. “Some of them have wanted to get their feet wet with traveling abroad; I’ve had kids develop long-term relationships with pen pals and they’ve met them on these trips. There have been lots of positive things with kids becoming more culturally aware on these trips.”
But some of those students had trouble finding donations or fundraising opportunities to help them cover the cost of the trip because donors could not make tax-deductible gifts or provide sponsorships that could qualify as a tax write-off, Young said. Rerouting financial assistance through an organization formally recognized by the IRS as nonprofit could alleviate those concerns, he said.
“By setting up a nonprofit, it will be so much easier for these kids to do some fundraising,” he said.
The organization will likely operate under the auspices of the Joplin district until formal 501(c)(3) status is granted, Young said.
“It’s a lengthy process” to file for nonprofit status, he said. “We just want to get started right now, and by operating under that umbrella, we can start now but still work toward obtaining our nonprofit status.”
Young said the organization would work to give students class credit for participating in a trip. For example, a student could write an online journal of his or her experiences for the high school newspaper, the Spyglass, or create a documentary with his or her videos and photos for the student television channel, JET-14, to receive a language arts or communication credit, he said.
Student participation in a travel-abroad experience could also qualify as a “personalized learning experience,” a type of independent study offered through the revamped curriculum of the new Joplin High School.
Members of the Board of Education were receptive to the proposal when Tarter and Young pitched it to them last week.
“I think it’s a great idea” for students, board member Michael D. Landis said. “It could be a trip that they might never take again in their life.”
For information on Immersion in Cultural Education, go to ice-jomo.org.