Raymond “Bud” Geissler was a student tour owner and operator for more than 20 years. He became involved with the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) 11 years ago to learn what he was doing well and how other tour operators worked.
Geissler has held several leadership positions within SYTA, most currently serving as chair of SYTA Youth Foundation’s Executive Committee. Associate Editor Cortney Erndt chatted with Geissler to learn more about the foundation, and how educators can best serve their students’ travel funding.
Q. What is SYTA Youth Foundation’s ultimate goal?
A. Do you remember when you were in school and you were the only kid at the lunch table without a snack? Or when the other kids got called to the assembly, but you had to stay back in class? It’s a horrible feeling.
Now, compound that feeling. You are the only cheerleader, trumpet player or history club member who can’t go on the school trip. Where does the director or educator turn? SYTA Youth Foundation is one place.
While there is a limited budget, we spend it annually to ensure young people have the opportunity to travel. Our ultimate goal is to provide resources to young people who cannot afford to travel, and we have multiple programs through which we provide those resources. Our ROADS program, for example, is an individual application for one student to travel. Our Silver Lining Program offers a larger group experience.
If you have a box of tissues, give me a call and I can read some of the applications. We fund about 10% of the requests we receive; we need more resources to grant more travel opportunities.
Q. Why is student travel important?
A. Every morning we wake up and see the same things: our home, school, community and place of business. We know what we are told and see what we can.
Student travel breaks those walls. Travel gives young people the chance to connect curriculum to reality, practice to performance and classrooms to careers. Kids need to see people who don’t look like they do, who don’t walk the same streets or eat the same foods. Only when they meet someone who is different than they are can we begin to break down barriers.
Q. What advice do you have for educators who feel their students cannot afford to travel?
A. Travel does not have to be cultural immersion halfway across the globe. There are many programs down the road, 100 or 200 miles away, that can offer the experience. SYTA tour operators can develop programs that connect to any curriculum.
The experience is about changing the selfie. Put the traveler in a position to see themselves with a different background and new people — it doesn’t matter where. The child will change, and he or she will remember.
Q. How can Student Group Tour magazine readers help?
A. You can certainly visit our website and donate. We have multiple levels of giving and would love to receive support from readers.
Join our Running For Youth program, which enables runners to raise money for our programs while they do what they love to do. Seriously, $25 or $50 — it all adds up and gives us more resources to provide scholarships.
We have long-term giving opportunities as well. Our endowment fund is approaching $1 million, and the Board of Trustees is now committed to giving away at least $100,000 in ROADS scholarships annually.
You also can help build momentum by following our social media channels. Travel changes young lives for good!
For more information about SYTA Youth Foundation, call 703-610-1263 or visit sytayouthfoundation.org.
Raymond ‘Bud’ Geissler is the Groups, National Account Manager at Travel Insured International, where he helps travelers protect their investments and themselves.