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Column: Friendship Force launches 40th anniversary campaign

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 23, 2017

Atlanta-based Friendship Force International is celebrating its 40th anniversary by launching a $1 million fundraising campaign.

Friendship Force is a pioneer in promoting global understanding through the citizen homestay experience. Its 40th anniversary campaign will seek to develop new initiatives to involve more people to travel with a purpose to create a more peaceful world.

jeremi snook

Jeremi Snook of the Friendship Force (Special)

“We hope donors will embrace our 40th Anniversary Campaign as a significant opportunity to personally invest in making the world a better place,” said Jeremi Snook, president and CEO of Friendship Force International, a nonprofit, non-government organization founded in Atlanta in 1977. “It is an opportunity to have ownership in a host of new global programs in which people travel to learn, make new friends and help build bridges of understanding across the barriers that separate people.”

The campaign has numerous aggressive objectives to achieve bold innovations, including:

  • Expanding worldwide membership in the Friendship Force movement, which now totals more than 15,000 people who travel with a purpose with FFI clubs in more than 60 countries
  • Offering more travel enrichment options for individual travelers
  • Launching new cultural awareness initiatives and events worldwide for students
  • Developing new arts, music, study, language and cultural exchange programs for youth
  • Creating programs for global meet-ups for families eager to learn about family life in other countries and their cultures
  • Providing a new online platform to encourage and support socially responsible travel open to all
  • Developing multilingual online and in-country tools for groups and individuals to create cultural learning and international friendship opportunities
  • Creating more shared public-spirited social service projects through Friendship Force’s network of nonprofit partners in areas such as environmental sustainability in South America, education for girls in Africa and other humanitarian efforts

Over the past 18 months, Friendship Force has engaged industry experts to conduct worldwide research, data collection and analysis to identify the trends and markets for specific new programs and adjustments to core programs.

Since its inception 40 years ago, more than 15,000 people have been participated in Friendship Force International in more than 60 countries worldwide.

Friendship Force has brought together more than 1 million people in homestay and cultural immersion experiences that have helped to promote global understanding across the barriers that separate people.

Achieve Atlanta

In only its second year in existence, Achieve Atlanta has offered more than $18 million in need-based aid to the Atlanta Public Schools’ Class of 2017.

This year, 1,106 seniors qualified to receive an Achieve Atlanta scholarship – an increase of 33 percent over its first year in operation, according to a release from the relatively new organization.

Tina Fernandez

Tina Fernandez

Once Achieve Atlanta Scholar are deemed to be eligible, they can receive up to $20,000 to pursue higher education. The award amounts will vary depending on whether a student chooses a 2-year-Technical College path or a 4-year University path.

The Achieve Atlanta Scholarship, funded by the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, is designed to assist APS families with need-based financial aid to pay for college. For APS’ Class of 2017, Achieve Atlanta has offered students a total of $18.7 million in scholarships over the course of their post-secondary careers.

“With the Achieve Atlanta scholarship, we’re attacking one persistent barrier our students face,” said Korynn Schooley, Achieve Atlanta’s vice president of college access, in a release. “It’s a critical component of how we’re helping more students access higher education and continue on a path toward achieving their dreams.”

Once students begin post-secondary study, Achieve Atlanta’s support continues via robust partnerships with colleges, universities and leading non-profits focused on college success. For students attending select schools in the metro Atlanta area, Achieve Atlanta’s academic partners provide high-intensity, hands-on assistance, beginning the summer before Freshman year.

This “intrusive counseling” model is based on higher-ed research and best practices that have proven to drive results for students making the transition from high school to college. As part of Achieve Atlanta’s on-campus work, all students attending schools in Georgia will receive access to a professional student coach this year.

“Through our strategic collaborations, we are focused on providing Scholars the academic and social supports they need to persist and ultimately earn a post-secondary credential,” said Susanne Diggs-Wilborn, Achieve Atlanta’s vice president of college success. “As we work with partners, we’re tracking student data closely to inform an experience that sets our Scholars up for success.”

Once on campus, Achieve Atlanta Scholars have the opportunity to connect with older APS alums at their school through Achieve Atlanta’s Ambassador program. Partner institutions include Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Atlanta Technical College, Georgia State University, Oglethorpe University, and Spelman College. Achieve Atlanta is set to expand partnerships to more institutions next school year.

Currently, there are approximately 600 Achieve Atlanta Scholars attending over 100 colleges and universities throughout Georgia and around the country. These students represent a growing community of APS students pursuing post-secondary degrees, many who are the first in their families to attend college.

“Every student deserves a chance to go to college — not just those who can pay for that privilege,” said Tina Fernandez, Achieve Atlanta’s executive director. “We’re removing one of the major barriers for students and ultimately positioning our students—and our city—for success.”

Achieve Atlanta expects to add hundreds more to their ranks in the coming years.

Points of Light’s Civic 50

Atlanta-based Points of Light, at its annual conference in Seattle on June 20, announced the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.

One of the honorees was Atlanta’s own United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS).

The Civic 50 provides a national standard for superior corporate citizenship and showcases how companies can use their time, skills and other resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business.

The Civic 50 winners were announced at the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service in Seattle, where leaders in volunteerism and civic engagement are gathering to discuss social innovation, cross-sector collaboration and how citizen engagement can drive change.

“In the fifth year of honoring the most community-minded companies in the nation, the Civic 50 truly highlights the commitment to community and civic engagement of America’s leading brands,” said Jennifer Lawson, president of networks at Points of Light, said in a release. “This year’s honorees contributed more than $1.4 billion and 10.1 million volunteer hours in their communities around the country,” said “Encouraged by calls for responsible citizenship from shareholders, employees and customers — but also driven by a desire to build trust and define their brands — Civic 50 companies are putting communities at the center of business.”

The Civic 50 winners are public and private companies with U.S. operations and revenues of $1 billion or more, and are selected based on four dimensions of their U.S. community engagement program – investment, integration, institutionalization and impact.

Helping young children eat fresh food

Four Georgia nonprofits have received $1.45 million to help provide and promote access to local, health foods for young children in the state’s early learning environments.

The statewide public-private partnership will be led by the Common Market Georgia, Georgia Organics, Voices for Georgia’s Children and Quality Care for Children.

The Farm to Early Care and Education initiative will offer hands-on education in nutrition, cooking, gardening and promotion of local, fresh foods in early care and education programs.

Together, the partners will expand healthy food access for Georgia’s most vulnerable children by encouraging family engagement, helping children learn where their food comes from, and expanding opportunities for local farmers to sell fresh foods to early care and education programs.

The project is funded by grants totaling $1.45 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and builds upon Georgia’s successful farm to school movement, which joins stakeholders in early care, local farming and nutrition.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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