We had the pleasure of meeting Global Routes alumnus, Emil Kim, in New York earlier this winter when visiting his office at SEO Scholars, a unique program focused on preparing students from low income families for a successful college experience. Emil is the 11th Grade Program Manager at SEO Scholars and as part of the 11th grade experience helps students to find summer opportunities like Global Routes. We asked Emil a few questions about his experience starting with his time in Kenya with Global Routes. Enjoy reading and viewing some of the photos from Emil’s program!
What was one of your favorite aspects of the program?
How about one of your silliest moments?
What was the biggest challenge for you on program?
Has your Global Routes experience stayed with you? How?
There are many ways the Global Routes experience has stayed with me. I still keep in touch with many of the people that were a part of my Kenya cohort. In fact, my village partner and I both reside in New York City, and we see each other every once in awhile to catch up. Another thing that has stayed with me is the confidence I gained in myself through this experience. Global Routes requires its participants to be independent and resilient. From the fundraising done at home to the community project each member decides to undertake in their village, each Global Routes member is given the leeway to take initiative and decide upon the best course of action. While it can be intimidating to have that much responsibility, I was left feeling empowered and proud of what I was able to accomplish.
Finally, and most obviously, the memories have stayed with me. What still surprises me to this day, though, is the clarity and detail of those memories. Every time I have a cup of chai I am transported to early mornings in Ebu Khaya surrounded by all the members of my Kenyan family. Every time I take a hike outdoors, I am taken back to the windy paths of red clay that twisted in and out between villages. Every time I see the unhindered horizon, a rare sighting where I live, I think back to the open vistas of the Serengeti.
Your work at SEO is very interesting, can you tell us more about your role and the organization?
I currently work at a non-profit called SEO(Sponsors for Educational Opportunity.) SEO is an innovative out of school program for low income, high-achieving students in NYC public schools. SEO provides coursework in Critical Reading, Writing, and Math, and offers SAT Prep, college tours, summer study abroad programs, and mentoring. I work as the 11th Grade Program manager and my main responsibility is to guide these students towards a successful path to college and beyond. More specifically, as the 11th Grade program manager, my main goals include academic preparation, SAT prep, and finally, enrichment programming. That last component, enrichment programming, is something that directly connects with my own experiences in Kenya with Global Routes. As an organization, we feel all students regardless of background should have the opportunity to have life-altering and enriching experiences to prepare them for college and their eventual careers. I know from my own experience how impactful a well-run travel abroad program can be, and it is my goal to expose my students to similar experiences in any way I can.
What is one piece advice that you would pass on to students considering a Global Routes program?
Bring a Frisbee.