Newly graduated from UMass Amherst and working his first job in advertising, Kenji Summers ’08 had never traveled abroad. Realizing that he was missing an important life experience, he got his first passport and celebrated his 23rd birthday in Barcelona, Spain. The trip sparked a passion in Summers for international travel, cultural exchange and self-awareness that he continues to impart to other young people through his organization, Passport Life.
Founded in 2011, Passport Life allows exceptional students to enrich their learning experience and broaden their world view through exposure to other cultures and ways of life. The non-profit organization selects under-resourced high school and college students and helps them overcome obstacles to traveling abroad.
“There are people in this country who don’t leave their neighborhood or a four-mile radius,” says Summers. “Sometimes they face physical or financial challenges, but it can also be psychological. We help creative youths open their minds so they take this important step in their journey and then become cultural ambassadors for the next generation.”
The organization is currently providing information sessions and workshops for the students at August Martin High School in Queens, NY, which was deemed one of the city's "worst schools" by the New York Post.
Through grants and corporate sponsors, Passport Life not only helps students obtain a passport and plan for travel overseas, but also connects them with the people, activities and resources that will contribute to their learning and growth.
Summers and his colleagues research opportunities and reach out to their personal and professional networks to ensure the best possible learning experience for each traveler. “At UMass, I learned through a community,” emphasizes Summers. “Whether it was my fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, my professors, deans or advisors—all of those people helped raise me and bring me to this point in my life. I feel that I need to do the same for others.”
Summers received a bachelor’s degree in sports management from the Isenberg School of Management. He has worked in advertising, media planning and brand innovation. In 2011, he was recognized by ADCOLOR with the Rising Star Award.
"Our goal for Passport Life is to grow smart," notes Summers. "We could have set out to distribute a million passports in one year, but that isn't our approach. We want to create real value because that will make the greatest impact." To learn more about Kenji Summers incredible voyage, visit Passport Life.
By Elena Lamontagne