Tracey Friley, a travel enthusiast from Oakland, California, is the founder of Passport Party Project, a community-based philanthropic global awareness program that provides underserved African-American girls with the resources they need to acquire their first passports.
Friley’s goal: To give away one passport a day for one year to deserving African-American girls – and, for the first time, young African-American boys will also become first-time passport holders.
“There is something that changes our lives just an inch every time we experience a first. Particularly as it relates to travel,” Friley wrote in her recent blog. “A first plane ride. The first time you realized how much of the world you haven’t seen. A first solo travel experience. The first time you tied something you learned in school to something you could actually see or touch in person. A first passport. And yes, that first passport stamp.”
I don’t know Tracey Friley but I’m proud of her: She’s helping many African-American girls – 11-15 years old — broaden their horizons by traveling the world.
By the time Friley was honored as National Geographic’s prestigious Traveler Of The Year in 2013, she had already helped 100 teen girls obtain their passports for the first and she arranged for six young girls to travel to Belize – their first excursion out of he country.
“One hundred girls armed with the coveted Little Blue Booklet means 100 girls with a broader worldview and the motivation to turn international travel dreams into realities—and potentially into changing the world as they start to experience the world, find their place in it, and respect it,” Friley wrote on her blog. “They might even change the world. 100 girls with passports also have a way of trickling down to others and encouraging family, friends, and onlookers to get their passports as well.”
Today, Friley has support from a host of corporations including Expedia, American Airlines, Yahoo, EBONY, The Travel Channel, and National Geographic Travel. Next year, Friley is arranging a trip to Costa Rica for 12 teenage girls who are first-time passport holders.
According to Friley and passport statistics, less than 39% of Americans hold a U.S. passport and study aboard. Statistics show that only 25% of underrepresented youth (8.3% Hispanic/Latino American; 7.7% Asian/Pacific Islander; 5.6% African-American; 3.6% Multiracial; 0.5% American Indian/Alaska Native) make up the study abroad population.
“The Passport Party Project aims to make a difference in both passport and study abroad stats in its own way by shifting the global mindset of underrepresented teens in their formative years so that they are prepared for international travel and ultimately, the global marketplace,” Friley said in a statement.
To date, Friley said, Passport Party Project scholarship candidates have applied from places including North Carolina, Oregon, California, Atlanta, New York, and Virginia. And Friley’s trips for teens have included China and Toronto.
“My job, as I see it, is to do what I can to get passports in the hands of as many young American underrepresented teens as I can,” Friley wrote on her blog. “I do it because I know the value of global citizenship and travel. I do it because I care.”
During the upcoming year, 365 Black teenagers will receive passports for the first time, which will provide exciting opportunities to travel the world.
What a blessing. America needs more citizens like Tracey Friley.
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