May 1, 2017

Former World Learning board member Bush Helzberg’s 1988 trip to France with The Experiment in International Living had a transformative impact on him. “That summer really ignited an interest in learning about other cultures, travel, and experiencing the world,” he says.

For 15 years, Helzberg has been helping high school students have a similar experience through a summer study abroad scholarship fund at University Academy in Kansas City, Missouri.

In fact, each year about 14 students from the public charter school participate, fully-funded. Since nearly 70 percent of the school’s students come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, they would not otherwise be able to afford these programs.

Helzberg’s parents co-founded the school, and he became involved in 2002 when he proposed establishing the scholarship. The program initially sent two or three students abroad each summer. By graduation, more than 70 percent of the class of 2017 will have studied abroad with The Experiment or a similar program. Helzberg is aiming for 100 percent in the future, and he wants to encourage other schools to establish similar programs.

As chairman of the school’s board of directors, Helzberg says studying abroad has a definite positive impact on students. Those who participate complete college at a much higher rate than those who do not, and each student who has studied abroad receives an average of $240,000 in college scholarships–compared to $90,000 for those who have not studied abroad. Helzberg believes student success is based on the confidence they gain by learning to “survive and thrive” in another country, which makes leaving home to attend college feel less daunting.

“When it started in 2002, it just seemed like a good thing to do,” he says. “We didn’t realize at the time that it would eventually become something that really helps us achieve our mission.”