OAKLAND (KPIX 5) Eliza Pesuit says only one percent of high school students study abroad. She takes teens on what’s often their first trip out of the country, and many come home determined to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Brian Lax says Eliza Pesuit helped transform his life.READ MORE: Alameda County to Close Hotels Used For Homeless Without Additional Funding
“You can’t put into words the things I’ve seen, the emotions I felt,” he explained.
Lax himself was homeless at age 11, but meeting Nicaraguan families living in a garbage dump broke his heart.
“My story is crazy,” he said. “I thought I’d been through it all and then I go there and see people living in extreme poverty.”
As executive director of Global Glimpse in Oakland, Pesuit sends a diverse group of high school juniors from the Bay Area and New York to visit developing countries.
“The joy is seeing their eyes open,” said Pesuit. “I remember that moment in my life.”
So far, 2,700 students and 270 teachers have traveled with Global Glimpse.READ MORE: UPDATE: Oakland City Council Meeting Debates Adding Police After Spike in Homicides
Teens like Lax receive training in leadership, culture, and history before traveling to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, or Nicaragua for three weeks. They live like the locals, and serve the community.
Travel costs $3500 per student, but teens pay on a sliding scale and raise a minimum of $500 each. Funding from foundations and individuals pay the rest.
Volunteer teachers like Impact Academy’s Erin Brandvold travels with the students.
“I get so excited when they talk about ‘Oh, now I want to major in political science so I can do this.'” said Brandvold. “For a lot of them, it changes where they see themselves going.”
Pesuit understands, and that’s why she took the executive director’s job at Global Glimpse seven years ago: to give students the experience she’d had as an international volunteer.
“They come back with a sense of purpose. They believe in themselves,” she explained.
Marcela Berrios, who directs the Bay Area program, says it thrives because Pesuit ignites a passion for people.
“She’s kind of like the cayenne pepper,” Berrios said. “She definitely brings such spark and enthusiasm.”MORE NEWS: California Drought: Desalination Could Be Backup Plan For Marin County's Emergency Pipeline Project
So for giving thousands of students and teachers a life-changing glimpse of the globe, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Eliza Pesuit.