It’s almost hard to believe 2017 is over. It was a tough year that, at times, felt like it couldn’t get any worse—and then it did. Some of what made 2017 particularly challenging was also what gives me hope for the future.

The divisive political climate in the United States spurred more people to take action through public activism than in recent years. More women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community are now running for elected office—and winning. The humanitarian support provided to victims of natural disasters and extreme weather events have been truly inspiring. And the United States’ collective excitement brought the country together to celebrate the first total solar eclipse in nearly a century, marking an incredible moment for science.

Yet domestically and globally, there were still acts of violence and terrorism and instances of intolerance and cruelty that illustrate how important it is for us to come together as one shared humanity. It’s time to recognize that we’re stronger working to support one another than as separate factions. We need to tackle the challenges facing our one world as one people.

Helping people come together and giving teens the tools to take action in their communities are some of the things we’re most excited for this year at Rustic Pathways. Looking back at what we accomplished with our students and community partners in 2017 makes me excited about an even bigger and better 2018!

In 2018, Rustic’s second By Invitation Only scholarship program will give 15 promising change makers the opportunity to explore aspects of the racial injustice black communities still face in the United States. As selected students travel from Washington D.C. to the Mississippi Delta, they’ll learn from people and organizations working to combat those challenges, at no cost.

Race in America is part of our Critical Issues series of programs, which were created in 2017 to expose teens to the most significant challenges facing their world and give them the tools to address those challenges in their home communities. After seeing the impact these programs had on our students in 2017, we expanded our 2018 Critical Issues series to include more programs that dive into a wider range of issues including climate change, gender inequality, poverty, and more.

Our collaboration with Thrival World Academies is expanding this year to include Indianapolis Public Schools. Thrival is building the largest network of publicly funded study abroad high schools in the country that give high school juniors the opportunity to travel and participate in experiential learning in Thailand as part of their state-approved curriculum. We’re excited and proud to be a part of this project that launched for the 2016-17 academic year with the Oakland Unified School District.

In addition to our new program initiatives that will help us develop the next generation of global leaders, the Rustic family stepped up to bolster the service work our students do around the world. Through the Rustic Pathways Foundation, our global community donated and helped raise more than $200,000 to support sustainable, locally-led, and community-prioritized projects.

Read more about the work our students accomplished to give back to our partner communities in our 2017 Impact Report.

These are just a few examples of why everyone at Rustic Pathways is excited about the future. Developing innovative thinkers and positively shaping the next generation of global leaders is rewarding and important work, and we’re honored to partner with other incredible organizations and individuals every day.

As we continue to come together as one shared humanity, I’m confident that we’ll take lessons from 2017 and use them to create a more unified, more compassionate, and more humble world for 2018.

 

About the Author

Chris Stakich

Chief Executive Officer

Committed to developing future leaders who embody compassion and global understanding, Chris has worked at the intersection of education, community service, and student travel his entire career. Since joining Rustic Pathways in 2002, he has worked in virtually all areas of the organization, from running programs in Costa Rica to managing the global team. A graduate of Harvard University, Chris now lives in San Francisco with his wife and three young sons.