ENGLEWOOD — Next month, the Chicago Urban League will take Kalifa Scaggs and 19 other black students, mostly from Englewood and Auburn Gresham, to study abroad in China.
"I can't wait to go and experience something other than what I see every day in Englewood," said Scaggs, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Elihu Yale Elementary School. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
As of Monday, the Urban League had raised $7,250 of a $15,000 fundraising goal for the trip through online donations. Regardless if enough donations are raised online or not, Danielle Parker, director of education for the league, said the students would go.
"We are halfway there with pledges. We are confident the community will step up and help students from our community to have the chance to experience leaving Illinois and seeing how different cultures live," Parker said. "Most of the students going come from needy households in Englewood and Auburn Gresham and are between ages 14 and 17."
Parker, who is one of three Urban League staffers who will accompany the students to China, said the group would like to make the two-week summer trip an annual one.
The Urban League is paying for lodging, food, passports, vaccinations and all other expenses including spending money, so students will not have to pay for anything, Parker said.
Students will visit Shanghai and Beijing while in China. They will depart from O'Hare Airport June 22 and return on July 6.
While overseas, students will tour cultural attractions, schools and government offices and participate in seminars and workshops at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai.
"Nothing like experiencing new cultures and hearing different languages," said Englewood resident Arrealle Mayfield, 16, a sophomore at Simeon Career Academy High School. "It's not much to experience living in Englewood unless you count gunshots. Living here you have to watch yourself everywhere you go. I have never left the country before, but I have left the state."
Most of the students going have never left the state, Parker said.
"It's good for them to leave their neighborhoods and see how other students live in another part of the world," Parker said. "I imagine when students return to Chicago they will have plenty to talk about to their family, friends and classmates."