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Building confidence in new, challenging surroundings

By: Kevin & Maureen Gray, Broadreach parents High School Study Abroad, Parents, Scuba Diving, Marine Biology

One of the main things that we strive to instill in our children is the ability to operate in situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. When they were young, we encouraged them to read in front of their school and attend camps where they didn’t know anyone. This led to some butterflies, both for them and for us. However, the result is that our girls are relatively adventurous and confident.

Last summer, however, the butterflies we felt from their younger days returned.

Our daughter Tess had won an award from her school. It’s a unique program in which a benefactor funds students’ self-created summer experiences that tie to a potential area in which they may want to eventually work. Tess has a growing interest in marine biology and, after a good deal of research, she determined that a Broadreach study experience in the Caribbean would be most beneficial to her college and professional goals.

We weren’t so sure about that, though. She had never flown alone, much less to another country. She would be living on a boat for three weeks with people she – or we – had never met. She would only be in contact with us upon arrival in St. Martin and then once a week after that.

We needed to do some research of our own. The Broadreach website has excellent and in-depth information, with itineraries are provided so you can see where your child would be each day and what they would be doing. There are also videos on the Broadreach site, on social media and on YouTube that bring the descriptions to life.

We had additional questions that Broadreach answered quickly and thoroughly via email. We also scheduled a call with a staff member, who helped solidify our trust in Broadreach and our excitement for the adventure Tess was about to undertake.

The days leading up to the trip flew by, but the butterflies remained. Finally, we found ourselves at the airport for Tess’s departure to the Caribbean – we knew that she was going to return from her trip a different person. We waited patiently for the daily updates from her group to see that she was OK. The pictures showed much more: happy students who were growing closer and learning on the ultimate floating classroom.

On her trip, Tess learned to scuba dive and sail. The students cooked and cleaned the boat daily. There were days spent in town and doing community service. They went on sunrise swims, climbed island hills to get unmatched views of the glorious sunset, and went on a lights-out night dive to bask in the ocean’s natural bioluminescence.

We were right. Through her Broadreach experience, Tess has changed. She gained so much, including:

  • The confidence to strike out on her own in an unfamiliar situation and with unfamiliar people.
  • Strong friendships forged through shared experiences.
  • A broader perspective that comes from being immersed in new environments and with people from different areas of the country and the world.
  • A new course for her future.

Tess is exploring several opportunities to study overseas. More recently, she applied for and was selected to receive another grant for this summer, when she will be traveling to the rugged coast of Maine to build upon the sailing, team building and problem-solving skills she developed through Broadreach. Tess has also mentioned several times since that she wants to return to Broadreach for another experience and, later, as a captain or an instructor.

We are deeply grateful to her benefactor who provided the funding for her trip, and for her school for offering the program and being supportive of her throughout the application process and beyond. We are also very appreciative of Broadreach for ensuring teenagers have access to life-changing trips such as the one Tess took last summer.

Her growth, and ours as parents, has been undeniable. The amazing experience we all had through Broadreach is preparing us for what is to come in life. For us, that includes keeping those pesky butterflies at bay.

Tess was part of a small group of students on a marine biology voyage in the Caribbean in the summer of 2019.