By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Last year, Jen Tylock took books to an elementary school in Peru that lacked resources. While in South America, the Shrewsbury High School student hiked treacherous terrain through the Andes Mountains on a mission to serve people in a local village. Jen found out about the opportunity to travel there from her counselor at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. The trip was part of the Global Explorers” Leading the Way Program that was set up for students with visual impairments and fully sighted students to work together to conquer obstacles and gain confidence and independence. Now a junior, Jen recently won a full scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to travel to Cambodia in June with the Global Explorers” American Youth Leadership Program.
Global Explorers is a nonprofit organization that provides cross-cultural excursion experiences that provide educational opportunities for students while incorporating a life-changing service component. According to Jen, all of the organization's programs are for people of all abilities, but they also have specific programs for students with visual or hearing impairments.
Jen said she was inspired to apply for the Cambodia program because she has always been interested in Asia and is also concerned with conservation and climate change, which are main themes of the trip. According to Jen, the Cambodia travels will also have a focus on leadership, service learning, global citizenship and promoting ecotourism, as well as learning about the culture there.
The application process for the trip included a written submission and a phone interview. Having never had an interview before, Jen said she was nervous ahead of time. About a week after the interview she played back a phone message from Global Explorers.
“I couldn’t believe I had been accepted,” she said, “I danced around the room a little bit and couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the night.”
With Jen having a long-standing interest in Asia, she's studied Chinese for five years. She balances her studies with athletics and participates on the high school track team.
“I love competing in the pole vault, along with the triple jump and some running events,” she said, “Although track is a stressful combination with school and I am up late doing homework, it is also in a way a stress reliever and lets me work on my time management skills.”
Jen will travel with a group of 30 high school students and six teachers from around the nation. She's eagerly anticipating her June plans.
“I hope to gain close friendships with the other kids on the trip, a camaraderie that will last a lifetime,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to learning about Cambodia in general, and spreading my knowledge when I return home. I hope to accomplish service learning projects that will benefit many people.”
In advance of her trip, Jen is raising money for Sala Bai, a vocational school for young Cambodians from families with incomes less than $25 a month. The school operates a hotel and restaurant where students gain service industry skills and receive job placement assistance. According to Jen, Sala Bai aims to reduce poverty by helping students earn higher incomes that they can share with their families. Jen is collecting donations, which can be made online at http://www.globalexplorers.org/funds/cambodia_2012_cambodiasalabai.