The Cultural Immersion program at BGCSDC provides Club members with the unique opportunity to fully experience a Boys & Girls Club in another country while learning about leadership, volunteering, and self-reflection through journaling.
Nominations are based on a teen’s demonstrated leadership, commitment to service, and academic excellence. All applicants submit a written application and undergo a rigorous interview process in order to be selected.
The 2022 finalists included eight teens across four schools; Booker High School, Sarasota Military Academy, Pine View School, and Riverview High School.
Akiel R., Senior
Ava M., Sophomore
Dani I., Senior
Daria T., Senior
Eliseo D., Senior
Fabian O., Senior
Gabriella G., Senior
Patrick E., Senior
Once selected, participants hold weekly meetings to discuss fundraising initiatives and learn about the country they will be traveling to. Oftentimes, they are able to meet with the overseas Club members in advance via Zoom meetings. Members are also responsible for funding their own trip by organizing various events and volunteer activities to raise funds towards their goal.
Thanks to a generous investment from Personalized Estate Liquidators (PEL), the 2022 participants were able to meet their entire fundraising goals by the end of August. The teens spent several Saturdays’ volunteering at the PEL store doing various beautification activities and thought they would receive a small donation of thanks, but instead were surprised with a check for $30,000 to cover the entire cost of their trip!
In preparation for their Club visit, members plan and prepare the educational activities and workshops they will lead throughout the week of their visit. They are also asked to journal or blog to reflect on their experiences. This year, the teens turned their journal reflections into a Vlog as part of a cinematography program at The Club.
The 2022 group kicked off their cultural immersion journey just before Thanksgiving with a stop in London where they toured Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Victoria Palace Theatre (where they saw a live performance of Hamilton, An American Musical) and Abbey Road.
“My favorite experience was Westminster Abbey, I feel like there was so much history in just the one building. It was definitely one my most favorite places I’ve ever been.” – Akiel R.
From London, the group traveled to Budapest, Hungary where they visited Boys & Girls Clubs of Hungary. This Club is the first European sister Club of Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and home of the BGC Angol Iskolai Program, a BGC English program for Hungarian children that pairs native English speakers with Hungarian teachers to deliver age-specific integrated curriculum to children ages 3 to 14.
Upon arrival, the teens were greeted by enthusiastic 5th and 6th-grade Club members who welcomed them with decorations and traditional Hungarian treats. As part of their service-learning goals, the teens led various workshops throughout the week and sprinkled in some fun interactive Thanksgiving holiday-themed activities such as building a gratitude chain together while sharing the things they were grateful for and baking a traditional pumpkin pie.
“I feel like my favorite experience was volunteering with the kids in Hungary even though it was just five days, I feel like I really connected with some of them.” – Patrick E.
“My favorite experience about the trip was getting to meet the little kids at the sister club. I had a really good time when we did the sports day and we were able to dance with them and play dodgeball and basketball. It was just really interesting to see all of us come together like that. “- Dani I.
While in Budapest, the teens also volunteered with Migration Aid*, a local NGO helping individuals and families who have been displaced by the war in Ukraine, and made Thanksgiving sandwiches with another local organization known for their “radical acts of kindness” who feed over 200 homeless individuals each week.
In between volunteering they also took in a little sightseeing and explored the wonder of the Budapest Christmas Markets; Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Central Market, and a River Cruise on the Danube.
After Budapest, the group wrapped up their journey with a stop in France where they experienced the beauty of Paris and toured famous landmarks including; Sacre Coeur, Trocadero Square, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and the Catacombs.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity. I made so many memories and I learned about what the Louvre is!! Incredible place!!” - Dani I.
After returning to Sarasota, the teens shared their experiences with their Club peers and began the work to complete their Vlog which can be viewed here. As a thank you to their Hungarian Club hosts for their hospitality, this year’s teens decided they wanted to give back by donating funds towards school supplies and materials.
This whirlwind once-in-a-lifetime experience included three countries in eight days, volunteering with three impactful non-profit organizations, and connecting with countless youth at the Boys & Girls Club in Budapest - all while learning to lead, educate and cultivate their own personal growth. This is sure to be an experience they will never forget.
“I feel like I gained a lot more confidence being around different people, different backgrounds and traveling out of the country with our group” – Eliseo D.
“Honestly my favorite experience was just bonding with all of the cultural immersion members overall. Just going around Europe with them, talking with them, going back to the hotel every night, having breakfast with them, just every moment that I had with these people was such a treasure.” Daria T.
“I think it’s important to have a worldwide perspective of everything that’s happening. Many people who don’t travel don’t have an understanding that others lead such different lives every day and It’s important to realize that we are in such a westernized bubble here. It’s important to travel and break that bubble.” – Daria T.
To see more photos and posts from the 2022 Cultural Immersion Trip visit instagram.com/theclubsdc
Click here to learn more about our program opportunities for teens.