Americans love America.
What other reason explains why we travel abroad so infrequently, on average half the rate of other developed countries?
A recent CNN report found that only 30 percent of Americans have a passport, as compared to 60 percent of Canadians, and 75 percent of citizens from the U.K. The report says this can be attributed to factors such as the American work culture, skepticism and ignorance, cultural and geographic diversity here in the States, and lastly cost and logistics.
But 24-year-old Bedford Stuyvesant native Kenji Summers is working to change all of that, with The Passport Project.
Summers started the project in 2009, an evolving initiative to increase the percentage of 18- to 29- year-old U.S. citizen passport holders. Summers describes this age group as "Millennials," people born between the years 1980 and 2000.
His fundraising goal is $135 a month to cover the cost of the passport. And he has established a place online where supporters can make a donation. Donors are encouraged to contribute as little as $10 or as much as they are able to afford. So far, he has raised $250.
“I want people our age to feel like global citizens," said Summers. "You may represent a certain borough, block, or state, but to reach the next level of maturity you have to think like a global citizen.”
Summers took his first international trip at the age of 23, and he says it was a life changing experience. His travels were incomparable to anything he could have ever experienced by staying in his borough.
“It gave me a better perspective of who I was in this world. Before that I was just a U.S. citizen. But there’s a bigger world out there," he said
While traveling to Barcelona, Spain, Summers heard rapper Lupe Fiasco’s "Paris Tokyo" (Remix). The lyrics from that album, "Fly to Paris, and end up in Tokyo. Let’s start a coalition so even the broke can go," inspired Summers to take action.
A passport for someone more than 16 years old is $135. The Passport Project is currently raising money for a scholarship to fund a “Millennials” passport application.
Summers says he hopes to work with agencies to fund the international travels of the scholarship recipients’ choice. A "passport scholarship" will be awarded to a different person each month (12 people) until February 2012.
The Passport Project is targeting recent high school and college graduates whose financial backgrounds typically would not afford them an opportunity for overseas travel. He said, he would like to be able to send them before they make the leap into full time employment, broadening their world perspective and even increasing their employment options abroad.
So far, he has partnered with a non-profit organization called the Marcus Graham Project to help young people in the advertising field take trips to advertising conferences. The Marcus Graham project will help with the cost of travel of the scholarship recipients.
“Getting this experience at a younger age will lessen the hesitation about traveling abroad later in life.”
Behind The Passport Project, Summers hopes among “Millennials,” the passport will become a status symbol like the latest technology or designer shoe, and the passport cover will be the new “it” accessory.
The fundraising site states the projects ultimate goal:
“[The Passport Project] will redefine the coming of age experience, meaning of success, and rebrand the Millennial Generation as the Global (Citizen) Generation.”
To apply for a scholarship or to donate to The Passport Project scholarship fund click here.