ADVOCACY 2017-02-17T13:07:44+00:00

This spoken word performance is poetry in motion, reminding us why proper policies need to be mandated and exercised.


In 2016, Virginia SB 338 passed in honor of Damion Wilkins, VA, who died in Peru helping indigent people on a program with Dr. Rollings’ Tropical Pathology and Infectious Disease. Damion’s law mandates public reporting of illness, injury and death, as well as rape and sexual assaults and presents a long overdue victim’s right – jurisdiction in Virginia.

In 2015, Minnesota Senate File 1975 passed in honor of Thomas Plotkin of Hopkins, MN who died a preventable death in India on a NOLS program. This is the first bill in the world requiring colleges and universities offering credit for study abroad opportunities to report illnesses, injuries, and deaths to the public via the Minnesota Office of Higher Education regardless of owning and controlling the campus. Representative Selcer and Senator Bonoff’s engagement came from Depart Smart Voices campaign sponsored in part by families of deceased students.

In 2015, Minnesota Senate File 1542 passed in honor of Depart Smart Founders’ 16-year-old son, Tyler Hill, who died a preventable death on a People to People Student Ambassador (now operating as Ambassador Leaders) trip to Japan. This is the first sunshine bill in the world requiring programs enticing our most vulnerable children abroad to report illness, injury and death to the public. Representative Yvonne Selcer authored bill with Senator Bonoff’s engagement and support.

In 2012, Depart Smart (ClearCause) submitted a request to the U.S. Department of State under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting a report of all deaths of American youth ages 12-26 on foreign soil. To date, USDOS has not delivered. Depart Smart FOIA Attorney, Daniel Alcorn, appealed. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar worked to get the data. Death certificates are filed with USDOS. USDOS publishes online
Reports & Statistics of U.S. Citizen Deaths Overseas. USDOS obviously has the data.

In 2012, Depart Smart (dba ClearCause) Director Annamarie Saarinen presented before the United States Department of State (USDOS) on the importance of background checks and other safety measures for foreign students in America. These rules were enacted. USDOS barred CETUSA, and suspended Pacific Intercultural Exchange and others for labor and sex trafficking foreign students in America. Similar rules for American students enticed abroad are nonexistent.

IN 2009, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie issued MN Statute 5A requiring international exchange student programs to register with the state and imposing misdemeanor legal action against noncompliant providers. This rule became the basis for state study abroad transparency laws.


In 2014, University of Massachusetts (UMASS) – Amherst sanctioned Living Routes for withholding information on a sexual assault in Costa Rica. UMASS no longer offers Living Routes programs.
In 2013, Swarthmore College sanctioned Duke University and the Organization of Tropical Studies, no longer accepting credits for their programs in Costa Rica on behalf of Ravi Thackurdeen (NY) who died in Costa Rica.
In 2012, the University of Iowa sanctioned the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), no longer accepting credits for their programs on behalf of Thomas Plotkin (MN) who died in India.
In 2010, the University of Massachusetts initiated their “One strike, you’re out!” policy on behalf of Katie Sherman. Katie was killed in India during a Living Routes program.


Every state and our federal policy makers needs to step up. Our students are Victims of Crime on school programs abroad. They have been scammed, abused, hurt, killed, even placed into countries for ‘studies’ where Peace Corp has withdrawn as the United States Department of State has active warnings, “Strongly encouraging you not to travel there at all.” The United States Oversight committee must give jurisdiction to departments within our government to protect them. You can make a difference by sending a quick email to your policy makers asking for help.

Our students deserve equally as much protection as United States Fulbright students who are under the protection of Chief of Mission. Our kids should not be enticed into countries with USDOS travel warnings. They know, and they are doing it anyway. Help us create protective laws.

STUDY APPLAUD is our way of recognizing really great people who go above and beyond for our students when things go bad. We are spotlighting study abroad leaders who think with uncommon sense, like the University of Iowa, Swarthmore College, UMASS – Amherst, and others. Know someone you would like to recognize? Let us know.


  • Students returning from travel abroad, debrief outgoing students and rate their experiences candidly.
  • Students are certified in global travel safety.
  • Our kids receive the same or better safety and security training and protection as United States Fulbright scholars or Peace Corp.
  • There is public reporting of illnesses, injuries and deaths so you know the safety record of the program whom you are entrusting your child’s life and future with.
  • Sanctions against poor performing programs is as strong as the protection that the USDOS provides foreign student programs in America.
  • Students are evacuated when USDOS Chief of Missions issues mandates and warnings.
  • Issues with non-responsive programs are escalated to a government watchdog.
  • There are ZERO preventable deaths and injuries on youth and student programs abroad.