Each year, more than half a million American students travel outside of the U.S. They are our future leaders and entrepreneurs, and yet they leave the safety of their hometowns unprepared to manage risks they may encounter. They have even less knowledge of what to do if/when they find themselves in harm’s way. This month, area businesses are holding fundraisers to support the launch of ClearCause Foundation’s Safe Journey Academy. Their hope is to help protect these students, and possibly even save their lives.

Safe Journey Academy will prepare students and parents for safer travel abroad

Safe Journey Academy is an online service of the ClearCause Foundation, a non-profit organization launched in 2010 by Sheryl Hill, and husband Allen, whose son Tyler died a preventable death while participating in a People to People study abroad program in Japan. ClearCause championed the Safe Journey Academy, which is the first standardized global student safety training to help parents and students prepare, identify and mitigate risks.

“Think of this as a tutorial, similar to driver’s education. It’s teaching preventive safety as well as appropriate actions should something happen,” comments Hill. The first module is a preparedness scenario called Depart Smart. “We’d never buy a house without understanding the neighborhood. But we send our kids into a foreign country without understanding how to find the nearest hospitals, etc. This module reviews some of these basics.”

Future modules will cover such topics as country-specific safety and security, housing, health and wellness, water safety, alcohol and substance abuse, and how to advocate for federal policies to safeguard our students. “Currently, the 200-plus billion dollar student travel industry is self-regulated. Thefts, robberies, injuries, sexual assaults and deaths go unreported. Parents have the right to know the safety record of the program escorting their child into a foreign country,” Hill asserts. “There are no federal or laws protecting our students outside the U.S. and no jurisdiction when their feet touch foreign soil.”

Take the Safe Journey Eye-Opener Quiz

From November 2 through November 12, Hill is encouraging students and parents to take and share the new Safe Journey Eye-Opener Quiz. “You’ll watch a 30-second introductory video, then take a 10-question quiz to help determine if you are really ready to travel abroad” explains Hill. “Did you know for example, that the three-digit emergency number is not 911 in most countries? Things happen repeatedly because we’re not informing our students. They are falling off unsafe balconies. They drown repeatedly in rip currents off the same dangerous beaches.”

Area businesses hold Safe Journey Academy fundraisers

The Safe Journey Academy is a cause that resonates with Minnesotans. Among the fundraisers taking place in conjunction with Give to the Max Day on Nov. 12 to help support Safe Journey Academy are:

  • One Community CONNECT Networking Party: This wine, beer and appetizer party sponsored by VirtualOffiCenters, will take place on Nov. 11 at France OffiCenter, 3800 American Blvd. W., Suite 1500 in Edina from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. VirtualOffiCenters is launching One Community in tandem with Safe Journey Academy, and will donate $5 for every guest who takes and shares the Safe Journey Eye-Opener Quiz.
  • Timberwolves Community Champions: ClearCause is the Timberwolves’ Community Champion for Give to the Max Day November 12. The Hills will receive a signed basketball center court. ClearCause will have a booth at the Target Arena for Safe Journey Academy. Two hundred ClearCause supporters will receive discounted tickets.
  • For Goodness Cakes: Raising Dough for Safe Journey Academy: This event is sponsored by award winning Country Cake & Cupboard, 491 Willow Dr. N, in Long Lake. On Nov. 12, the bakery will donate a percentage of every purchase to ClearCause
  • Petaling Buds to Grow Safe Journey Academy for ClearCause: Zinnia Design Florals will host an open house, featuring hot coffee, apple cider and cookies, at 3418 Shoreline Dr. in Wayzata, on Nov. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Twenty percent of every Thanksgiving or holiday pre-order will be donated to ClearCause Foundation to help Safe Journey Academy blossom, helping to save lives and protect students abroad.

Everyone who makes a tax-deductible donation to Safe Journey Academy will also receive a Travel Safety Checklist with more than 50 tips. “The travel safety checklist makes a person stop and think about everything from travel medical and evacuation insurance needs to having personal health information translated, to emergency contacts with active passports,” says Hill.

ClearCause Foundation is making history

In addition to launching Safe Journey Academy, the first-ever standardized global student safety training, ClearCause Foundation recently made history with the passage of two legacy laws in Minnesota:

  • Tyler Hill’s K-12 Student Abroad Sunshine Law protects our most vulnerable students by requiring K-12 student abroad programs to publicly report illness, injury and deaths in 2016.
  • The Thomas Plotkin Higher Education Sunshine Law requires colleges and universities to publicly report illness, injury and deaths abroad. They must also indicate whether the programs comply with health and safety standards. These reports will be made available on the Minnesota Secretary of State and Office of Higher Education websites in 2016.

A third piece of legislation, the Ravi Thackurdeen Safe Student Abroad Federal law, was reintroduced this fall.

“Our vision is that every youth and student will come home with a rewarding experience in an industry held to the highest standards,” says Hill. “To achieve that, we need to prepare them to vet out their programs, as well as identify and mitigate risks. They should all come back safe. We are so grateful for community support to fund Safe Journey Academy.”

To take the quiz: Visit www.safejourneyacademy.org.