Bianca Nelson is a Baltimore native who is the driving force behind Learning To Live Movement Inc. This 501c3 nonprofit is transforming the lives of high school students of color in her community. The organization, affectionately known as LTL, has a compelling mission: to offer travel opportunities that empower teens, foster personal growth, and open doors to new horizons. LTL’s approach is a powerful blend of education, mentorship, and the chance to explore the world beyond the familiar.
TN: Can you share more about your organization and how it empowers teenagers to travel the world?
Bianca Nelson: Learning To Live Movement Inc. provides travel opportunities for teens of color. We create enrichment retreats for students to explore beyond their comfort zone, learn new cultures and ways of living, and go on a journey of self-discovery. Our students are empowered to travel because we have created a community that helps them understand the power of travel and its impact on personal growth. We challenge our students to embark on these experiences that prepare them for adulthood. We provide the tools needed for students to learn about their destinations so that they can get excited and feel confident about the travel experience.
TN: What inspired you to start this initiative in Baltimore, and what impact have you seen on the local community?
BN: I was born and raised in Baltimore and have always dreamed of giving back to my community, especially the youth. When I moved to California at age 20 and started traveling the world, I realized there was a lot I didn’t know, a lot I wanted to know, and a lot I wanted to share with the people in my city.
Baltimore is a special place. I knew that if I could change the perspectives of the youth, then they could use what they learned to pour back into the city. We’ve noticed our students inspiring their peers and elders to think outside the box. I had a student who received their passport before their parents, which was eye-opening for that parent. That motivated the parent to get his passport, travel overseas, and be able to add what he learned into his leadership role in the city of Baltimore. That’s just one example of the impact our program has had.
TN: Traveling can be a transformative experience. How have you witnessed personal growth and development in the teenagers you’ve worked with?
BN: I have witnessed remarkable personal growth and development on numerous occasions. I’ve seen increased confidence, open-mindedness, relationships, and communication skills. My favorite has been seeing our teens inspired and excited to continue to travel more.
TN: Many young people face financial barriers to international travel. How do you address these challenges?
BN: Big thanks to our sponsors, donors, and all-around supporters. Because of them, we can eliminate these financial hurdles for our students. When students join LTL, they have to show up, be eager to learn and grow, and participate in fundraising activities or learning projects. We cover all travel costs, such as air or ground transportation, accommodation, meals, activities, and passports for international travel. The goal is to have more kids of color traveling and fewer excuses for why they can’t.
TN: What role do mentorship and education play in preparing teens for international journeys?
BN: To prepare our teens for their travels, they complete research projects that equip them with knowledge, skills, and cultural awareness for their destination. Our community partners play an essential role in mentoring students. They work closely with the kids daily, offering guidance and support. When it’s a go for take-off, our students are excited, confident, and culturally sensitive.
TN: Traveling abroad often involves adapting to different cultures. How do you help teenagers navigate cultural differences and gain a global perspective?
BN: Communication is everything. I make sure to create a safe space for communication so that students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their opinions and feelings. Each day, we have our moment of reflection where we discuss what we’re feeling and learning. Also, we do our best to lead by example because kids watch and pay attention to everything we do. In addition to what happens during our trips, students are given research projects to learn about the culture before they arrive.
TN: In your opinion, what are the long-term benefits of providing these travel opportunities to Baltimore’s youth?
BN: I see our students growing up to be leaders with the formula for change and using it. Not only will our students benefit from these opportunities, but the people around them will benefit, too. Their energy, knowledge, and confidence will be a positive force in their environments. I see a society of more people of color getting ahead in the game of life just because they started traveling early.
TN: What’s next for your organization? Do you have any upcoming projects or goals you’d like to share?
BN: Up next for travel is Cali, Colombia, in March 2024 with Two Oceans Travel and Live. Be. Do. Amongst many goals, such as increasing our number of retreats per year and increasing our passport scholarships, our main goal is to shake things up to prove that seeing more kids of color traveling can change the world a bit. We’re planning some unique, never-heard-of projects for our youth, and I’m excited.
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