Hazel Mejia is the Program Manager for SYTA and the SYTA Youth Foundation. She’s been with SYTA for five years and has worked with SYF the entire time. Mejia started with SYTA as the Association Administrator, moved into a Membership and Development Coordinator position after two years, and has been Program Manager for one year.
This is her first job in the nonprofit world and within the travel industry.
Why is travel important for students and youth?
Travel is so important to students and youth, because it’s such a key component of their complete education. Their history lessons come to life when you walk through those footprints. And those science experiments not only make complete sense now, but you can actually hold the experience in the palm of your hands. Students become excited to know more—and their curiosity continues when they return to the classroom.
Traveling to new horizons inspires you. Traveling to new horizons broadens your mentality and the way you see the world around you.
What effect have you seen traveling with SYTA Youth Foundation make on the lives of students?
Through SYF’s Silver Lining and Next Generation programs, I get to experience—firsthand—the impact that travel has on the students who benefit from the travel experiences we provide. Being able to see them react to the tour they’re experiencing and make a connection with something they’ve learned or someone they’ve met makes a positive impact in their lives, even when we don’t see it right away. The students leave more confident, more curious than when they first arrived at their destination.
How has travel affected your life?
To me, travel has always been about connection. I’m fortunate to be able to connect with the students and learn their stories throughout their travel experience. When the students arrive, you are a stranger to them. And after a few short days, you become a part of their tribe. That feeling and that connection are priceless!
Written by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for Teach & Travel.
This article originally appeared in Teach & Travel.