Since 1986, McCluer High School students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri have been participating in a two-week Travel Immersion Program. But the program doesn’t have ample funding; out of the nearly 1,300 students at McCluer, almost 80% qualify for a free or reduced lunch, so these are students who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to travel abroad. Recently McCluer ran a clothing drive through Schoola to raise money for their program, and you can still shop their collection here, which has so far raised more than $600.

The program is designed to provide complete immersion in the language they’re studying at McCluer, as well as a hands-on cultural education experience. Students spend the first week traveling around the country, visiting places of historical and cultural importance, and the second week living with a host family, enjoying the daily culture and walking in the shoes of others.

The sought-after program is competitive, and only students McCluer believes will take full advantage of the language and cultural immersion, and who will be outstanding representatives of the community, are accepted. Students must receive positive teacher recommendations, have strong grades and excellent discipline records, and suburb school attendance.

The benefits of the Travel Immersion Program are immediately visible in the students who travel: their language skills, and overall communicative competence, improve greatly. Many students make cultural and personal connections that last their whole lives. Students share these stories and relationships with classmates and community members when they return to McCluer. Several students have gone on to major in French or Spanish and later to use their language skills in their professions as well.

Although less visible, the cultural competence and communication skills that these students utilize and develop while abroad help enhance the image of McCluer’s community. In other words, residents of the host countries get a meaningful, positive interaction with real, everyday American students, demonstrating the positive, hard-working, friendly side of McCluer’s community, state, and nation.

Again, to help raise funds for  McCluer’s Travel Immersion Program, make sure to shop their Schoola page!