When the founder of One Step Initiative wrote his vision for the organization on letterhead, he was predicting a future of increased interest in travel, not only from mature millennials but also from youth developing into college-bound students. Brian Booker, the founder, is working to improve the number of students not traveling the world before they reach college. Kids that do not have nostalgic wanderlust parents with disposable income, equally deserve educational opportunities abroad. How would Brian discover a solution while also addressing critical areas of opportunity in the education system? One Step Initiative. This organization would become a door for first-time flyers and high achievers to see more of the world and become its student.
One Step Initiative (OSI) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that offers study abroad programs for youth who attend high schools in historically underserved neighborhoods. It is also the only international education provider operating in the Tri-State (Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas) region. Founded in 2014, it is the number one study abroad provider for inner-city high school education. OSI facilitates an International Education Development Program (IEDP) that prepares students (also called Youth Global Ambassadors) for global leadership, international knowledge, and intercultural immersion experiences. OSI frames learning experiences within the context of cultural exchange and language learning activities. Their leaders integrate a six-month development program along with a student orientation, parent discussion, and debriefing.
While in Ghana, highlights of their Youth Global Ambassadors’ experience include tours of the Kwame Nkrumah Museum and Mausoleum dedicated to Ghana’s first democratic President, and an inspirational seminar led Ghana Parliament member H.E. Dr. Zenator Rawlings. Students also enjoyed hiking at the rainforest reserve Kakum National Park and Canopy Walk and participating in a fine arts lecture by philanthropist and Blue Skies CEO Seth Dei at the Dei Center in Accra. A tour of the Cape Coast Castle Dungeons and Museum to study the starting point of the transatlantic slave trade was part of the experience as well. However, exploring sustainability ideas through organic farming and designing jewelry, clothing, and dishware from recycled materials were some of their favorite activities.
I traveled with One Step Initiative for the first time in 2014 and watched as OSI’s Youth Global Ambassadors traveled from their communities in the South and took a leap to broaden their understanding of the world. I watched students immerse themselves in local customs and culture, ask questions and work together to find sustainable solutions abroad that could apply at home.
When I first met Chiquirra Madkins, one of OSI’s Youth Global Ambassadors, the soft-spoken and assertive teenager stood out as an individual that was immediately enamored by her experience in Ghana. I remember the first day of our arrival in Accra. The bus drove onto the grounds of our partner institution, Kokrobitey Institute, and after unloading the students began their introduction. Not long after unpacking and starting the day with a freshly prepared Ghanaian meal, the students discovered the beautiful beach at the edge of the property. Many of the students have never experienced a coastline in the same fashion as their peers from beach cities. For Chiquirra, the beaches of Kokrobitey would be her first experience with that aspect of nature. Excited, she removed the camera from her neck and ran into the water fully dressed.
Today as an OSI Youth Global Ambassador Alum, Chiquirra is pursuing her education as a freshman at Harding University. An electronic media productions major, Chiquirra’s career aspiration is to be a filmmaker, and she endeavors to tell stories of people from around the world. True to the actions of global citizens, Chiquirra has volunteered with the COGIC World Missions Disaster Relief Team assisting flood victims and others through missionary work. In May 2018, Chiquirra will further her mission work through an internship in Antalya, Turkey where she is excited to teach Turkish citizens English. Chiquirra is just one of the many young people whose lives are impacted by the OSI Youth Global Ambassador Program.
For more information about One Step Initiative Inc. and the Youth Global Ambassadors program, please visit onestepinc.org.