Adrienne Matros has traveled to numerous Community Immersion destinations in addition to funding programs for students at Samueli Academy and Tarbut V’Torah Community School. Civitas contributors Amy Litman and Emilia Kaczynski had a conversation with Adrienne Matros to learn more about her perspective on why cultural immersion experiences are more important than ever.
Why is it important for high school students to participate in cultural immersion programming?
I sometimes struggle to articulate my reasoning—it’s easier for me to explain through a story. When my son was a senior in high school, his class was selected to travel to Kenya through a program funded by Oprah Winfrey. As a parent, I initially struggled with the idea. He was only 17 years old and it was difficult to go through 22 days without communication. When he came home and got off the plane, the first thing he said to me was “Mom, I’m going back. I want to go back next week.” At first I was shocked, and said, “You have to go straight to college!” Since that experience, my son was inspired to travel extensively, and has dramatically changed how he lives his life. The greatest impact has been on his perspective. He thinks globally and looks beyond his local community, his country and his culture. After seeing these changes in my son, I knew I wanted to share this gift with other students.
How have cultural immersion programs impacted students at Samueli Academy?
Last summer I traveled with Samueli Academy on a Community Partnership program to La Push, Washington. At Samueli Academy, 80% of students live below the poverty line, and many have not had the opportunity to travel or even been on an airplane. The students immediately felt accepted by the Quileute people and felt that they had found a home away from home. They were in awe of the natural beauty of the Pacific coastline, and relished falling asleep to the sound of ocean waves, so different from the city sounds they were accustomed to. In a new cultural setting, students start to question values and ideas about themselves and society. It’s amazing to watch them have these difficult discussions without realizing it! Two of the ten students decided to attend college in Seattle as a direct result of their experiences in La Push. They could imagine themselves in a completely new place, and took the leap to attend college out of state. That’s a powerful impact.
What are skills and values of global citizens?
Through my experiences with Community Partnership programs, I have witnessed students learn how to immerse themselves in a new culture without jumping to judgment. They step back and work through differences without placing a right or wrong judgment on a situation. This is an essential skill, now more than ever. Students must build bridges and meet people different from themselves.
Adrienne Matros believes in the transformational power of global experiences and intercultural learning. Adrienne attended Xperitas Team Leader Training in the fall of 2016.