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Lessons We Learn From Our Fathers

In Celebration of Father’s Day, we reflect on what lessons we have learned from our fathers

Father’s Day in the United States is celebrated every year on the third Sunday in June. This year, Father’s Day is celebrated on June 21, 2020. This is also consistent with the U.K. and Canada. However, many other countries around the world celebrate their fathers in various months throughout the year.

In honor of Father’s Day here in the U.S., a few Up with People staff members wanted to share some lessons that they have learned from the father-figures in their lives, whether they are a biological father, a host family father, a grandfather, uncle or guardian. Regardless of how you view them, we can always learn a lesson or two from them.

Celebrating father's day
Lauren and her family with their father

Lauren, Marketing Coordinator

“When my mom and dad first became a couple in the 60s, my dad was a part of many protests that were happening at the time in Washington D.C.. He drove buses back and forth between the camp and protest sites. After returning home, my mother was shocked at the person she was looking at. He was dirty, smelled terrible, had tattered clothes and as my ma says, ‘wore fairy boots.’ Coming from a strict Sicilian and full-fledged Catholic family, this was not going to go over well with my grandparents. My father knew that he had to become the man she needed him to be. He cleaned up his act, and his clothes, and went back to college to eventually become the Director of Operations for BAE, a company he worked at for over 40 years.

My father has taught me that it’s important to go after exactly what it is that you want. He wanted to fight for peace and civil justice, so he made it happen. He wanted to earn the privilege of being my mother’s husband, so he did what he had to do for the woman he loved most. At the end of the day if you want something bad enough, you will figure out how. You always will.”

Laura, Database Manager

“Measure twice – cut once.”

Eric, Senior Vice President and Artistic Director

“My father has turned down several job assignments which would have sent him on the fast-track towards a promotion during his 30-year career in the Air Force. Yet, he still managed to become one of the youngest Brigadier Generals in the Air Force. He did this because he believes that family is more important than a career, which is a fundamental component to my own family dynamic today.

My dad always says, “Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.” He also says, “Don’t fart in a crowded elevator,” or at least I think that’s him. Maybe that was me teaching my boys a lesson last night.”

Celebrating father's day
Amy with her Father

Amy, Community Relations & Event Specialist

“My father was an athlete, pilot, coach, and teacher.  He came from a modest background and had to work hard every day to achieve success.  He was positive and encouraging to his three children, and believed we could do anything we set our mind to.  He always said, “You can do it,” while teaching us how to throw a ball, come to a stop on ice skates, paint with the grain, learn to drive a car, or solve a difficult math problem.  He was gentle and patient and kind as he helped us navigate life’s obstacles.

One March day, he was jogging with his track team, mentoring and coaching young men, as he did every spring season.  They were headed toward the goal post on the field. He encouraged his team by saying, ‘You can do it!’ Those were the last words he ever uttered.

His big and loving heart suddenly stopped and he died before he hit the ground.  I hope those people continue to this day, as I have, to strive for success and believe in themselves, with that sage advice ringing in their ears.  They are simple, but powerful words. Thanks, Dad.”

Alyssa, Admissions Advisor

“In any given situation, see the hourglass half full, rather than half empty.”

Ken, Vice President for Cast Programs

“I learned from my dad to say what is on your mind or what needs to be said, but choose words that make sense. Ask the person if there is an understanding and be patient if there isn’t. You can always try again.

I also learned from  him to keep what you might use again, but be sure you can find it when you need it.”

In honor of Father’s Day in the United States, what lessons have you learned from your father or father figure in your life?

Celebrating father's day
Megan with her father

Megan, Annual Giving and Stewardship Programs Manager

“My dad continuously reminds me that I can only worry about the things that I can control. I can’t worry about other people’s thoughts, words, opinions or actions. I am only in control of me. Sometimes, his words resonate so well and other times, they completely frustrate me to no end! However, he continues to amaze me with his never-ending knowledge and wisdom so I usually listen in the end.”


You’re my son
And my life is blessed because of you
You’re all that a father could hope for
One day you’re gonna see
You have no greater fan than me
And I wanted you to know how I feel
‘cause I couldn’t be prouder to say: “You’re my son”

You’re My Son © Up with People

Meet the Cast Monday: Macy, Up with People Gap Year Student

Up with People gap year students travel anywhere from 6 months to 1 year as they visit different countries around the world volunteering and performing in local communities spreading a message of hope.

For this week’s Meet the Cast Monday, we had a chance to sit down with Macy, one of our newest travelers in the Up with People program. Learn more about Macy, her first time meeting her host family, and what she is most excited for during the Spring 2019 tour on our latest YouTube video!



“You know that each of us
Has a song to sing, a story to tell, now.
Come on and share your heart,
Invite the world to sing along, come on now.

This is our song.”

Sing Your Song © Up with People

Meet the Cast Monday: Henry from Mexico

Meet Henry, a first time gap year traveler in Up with People from Mexico!

Learn more about Henry, what his first experiences in the United States have been like for him, and what he hopes to gain out of his time traveling with the cast.

Up with People student travels on his gap year

Why did you decide to travel in Up with People?

“It’s a way for me to help the communities I visit while still traveling and meeting people from all over the world with similar interests as myself. I have met people that I can call real friends and people that I can build bridges over the years with.”

What was arrival day in Ruston, LA like for you?

“Humid, and warm, yet it was amazing! We had a reception with homemade peach cream and songs for all the cast. It was truly amazing.”

How have the first couple weeks on the road been?

“Exhausting and amazing, but then again that is what I expected. It has been a journey full of positive experiences and opportunities for me to learn about various topics I’m passionate about and then portray them in our show to a worldwide audience.”

How did you hear about Up with People?

“My parents grew up listening to many of the songs. When I showed musical interest in my life, they introduced the idea of Up with People to me. After seeing the show for the first time, I was hooked after hearing ‘Footsteps of a Girl.’ It was really powerful.”

What were you most nervous about at the beginning of the semester?

“I was definitely nervous about the dancing. It’s pretty much the only thing I’m very insecure about because I had never done it before. Now I actually think I’m starting to like it!”

What were you most excited about at the beginning of the semester?

“I was most excited about meeting new friends and having a chance to have a fresh start. I would have a whole new group of people that had never known me before.”

Up with People student from Mexico volunteers abroad

What do you hope to gain out of your experience in Up with People?

“A more oriented passion that might help me decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. I also want to learn new skills to communicate and educate the youth in positive leadership.”

What was it like meeting your host family in Ruston for the first time?

“It was actually very strange and kind of funny. In Mexico, it’s a very common thing to hug people when you say hello. Here it is not quite the same, so it was very funny when I reached out to hug my host sister to say hello. She stepped back and looked at me with a weird face, but now we just laugh about how funny it was. Staying with my host family has been so great. They have been amazing with my roommates and I.”

Why do you think a program like Up with People is important?

“It’s important because a lot of people want to help others and create a positive impact in the world, but they don’t know how. This program is a very good platform to help you do that.”

What has been your biggest challenge on the road?

“Overall sleep, changing beds every week, and experiencing different lifestyles every week. It can be very exhausting, but it’s also an incredibly fascinating adventure. It’s very hard to describe, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”


“Like the children we all were once, unafraid and filled with light
Always reaching, always soaring, though the world may be filled with fright
If they can learn to see beyond this, can we make this simple promise?

Keep Hope Alive © Up with People

Part 1: What Is Cultural Awareness?

Up with People gap year students performing in Grand Island

Guest Post by Ellen Enebo, Curriculum Manager of Up with People

In Up with People, we develop our cultural awareness through conscious actions and recognition of how our culture influences our perceptions of the world. This includes not just observing the “what” of ways different communities approach tasks, challenges and interactions, but also seeking to understand the “whys” and “hows”. But what exactly is cultural awareness? 

For starters, have you ever:

  • Figured out how to eat an unusual food by watching how those around you ate it?
  • Mirrored your introduction to someone new by greeting them how they greeted you?
  • Heard an accent or a speech pattern of a non-native speaker and adjusted your English to be more clearly understood?
  • Realized that there may be more meaning behind the words of what you are being told than merely what is said out loud?
  • Sought to understand the world around you, and noticed how what is “normal” can be vastly different, depending on where you are, and who you are interacting with?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, then you are showing a level of cultural competency, also sometimes referred to as cultural intelligence, cultural awareness, or intercultural competency. It is essentially the ability to communicate, relate and work effectively across cultures.

Gap year students perform in Up with People

Understanding Culture

Culture has been described metaphorically as an iceberg or as a tree with deep roots — that only a small portion of culture is visible above the surface, in the form of food, traditions, language, architecture, and other visual representations, and the majority of cultural norms are actually below the surface.  This shared ideology of a group of people is what binds them together, while being difficult to define with clarity. Because much of what makes up a culture can’t be seen, visitors to that culture might discover these cultural norms through trial and error, or by being told that they had, inadvertently, done something that was viewed as offensive or inappropriate.

Benefits of Traveling

One huge benefit of traveling in Up with People is the continuous opportunity to expand this cultural competency.  Through interactions with fellow cast members from 15+ countries, we make space to recognize and discuss our cultural differences, and also our commonalities and what brings us together. Through staying with host families in 3-5 countries, living under their roof as members of their family for a week, we learn how to get along in a region, what courteousness looks like there, and trying out the “normal” daily tasks that might be completely new to us. 

Some of our cast members have never traveled before out of their home country, and others come to us with degrees in anthropology or intercultural communication. No matter what your cultural competency is when joining UWP, it is our goal, as with all our curriculum efforts, that we cultivate you in this area, so you depart Up with People with expanded understanding of other cultures, and how to effectively get along among them.


Ellen Enebo is Up with People’s Curriculum Manager and has been with Up with People since 2007.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Studies, Leadership and Communication, and has training certifications from the Intercultural Communication Institute and the Institute for Cultural Affairs.


“Here we are
And now the story’s changing
Can we hear
Beyond the words they are saying
Maybe when all sides
Can rise above the noises
We’ll listen to the voices
Of the world.”

Voices © Up with people

Best Southern Comfort Foods from Louisiana

Who doesn’t love Southern comfort food? It’s comforting for the body, and amazing for the soul. Travelers in Up with People have been in Lafayette, Louisiana this week and will be in Ruston and Shreveport for the next two weeks. That means they will have three full weeks of experiencing truly delicious comfort food made with the hands and hearts of Louisiana natives.

Here are some of the sumptuous treats that are some of the signature Southern comfort foods found in Louisiana.


It may seem simple, but perfecting a jambalaya dish takes serious skills. Whether you are wanting it Creole or Cajun style, you can find it beautiful Louisiana. It originated in New Orleans, like many of these southern delicious meals you’ll find to be incredibly popular. Jambalaya was the Spaniards’ attempt at making their own paella (another famous rice dish), but since they didn’t have saffron to complete the dish, they replaced it with tomatoes. Now both recipes can be found at many restaurants, especially in the French Quarter of New Orleans.


Carnival food has nothing on beignets, a fluffy fried-dough pastry covered in powdered sugar. It is typically served in the shape of a square and comes in orders of three. Take a bite of these mouthwatering treats and you’ll be wanting a second round before you know it.

Crawfish Boil

For anyone that has visited Louisiana, you’ll know that the crawfish boil is not for the faint of heart. They’re filled with spice that will make your forehead sweat. You’ll find the best of the best in Cajun country, Lafayette! Head to the local seafood market to get a taste of these spicy cajun fish. Don’t be surprised if you get a little messy. Crawfish are meant to be thrown onto a table and eaten with your hands and are much more enjoyable with a group of friends or family.

Southern comfort food in Lafayette, Louisiana


Served in a large pot, gumbo begins with a roux, a flavorful combination of flour mixed with butter, oil or bacon fat, followed by the ‘holy trinity’ (onions, bell peppers, and celery). Whether you want seafood, chicken, or sausage, you’ll quickly see that a customizable dish like gumbo will warm your belly. Southerners take pride in their gumbo so make sure to savor every bite!

King Cake

We can’t skip out on desserts that fast. During Mardi Gras season, you’ll find nearly everyone in Louisiana eating their fair share of king cake. You won’t just find them on the streets of New Orleans either. You can get your king cakes anywhere food is sold, such as  bakeries, grocery stores, gas stations, and food trucks. Look out on the streets for this purple, green, and yellow treat!


You can thank the nuns for these. It’s believed that pralines were brought over from France by the nuns who came to New Orleans in the 1700s. These pecan candies are cooked in a kettle and made with a copious amount of brown sugar. They have the perfect crunch to curb your sweet tooth.


Boudin is definitely for the meat-lovers. It’s a combination of spare pork parts that are mixed up with rice, various spices, and stuffed into a casing served in links or boudin balls. The casing is thick and chewy, so be prepared to squeeze out the middle filling. If you like fried food, boudin balls are a deep-fried variation of the boudin links.

New Orleans has had a significant impact on the culture of southern food throughout the state of Louisiana. No matter what city you are in, you’ll find classic dishes made with pride by the people who love their state the most.


“Where all the old stories and centuries converge,
Today and tomorrow where hopes will emerge,
It’s in the music and words, Festa Humana.”

Festa Humana © Up with People

Meet the Cast Monday: Quinn from Bermuda

This week, we would love to introduce you to Quinn, a second semester traveler and study abroad student in Up with People from Bermuda. Why did she decide to return for a second semester? See what her experience has been like on the road!

Why did you decide to travel in Up with People?

“When I was in my senior year of high school, my friend Angelis Hunt was telling me about Camp Up With People. Around the same time in my life, an admissions representative from Up with People came to my drama class to do a presentation about the program. I was instantly intrigued.”

Gap year student in Up with People study abroad program

What was arrival day like for you?

“Arrival day was extremely fun for me! I loved meeting new people and just enjoyed sharing everything we were excited about for the upcoming tour.”

How was your first week?

“My first week was great! We spent time volunteering with local organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Riverside Lodge Retirement Community, and many others. We also performed at the Nebraska State Fair which was such a fun experience.”

What do you hope to gain out of your experience in Up with People?

“In my first semester, I was an Admissions Representative Intern. I was able to go out and do workshops with young people at a high school and college level. It gave me better interpersonal skills and a higher level of professionalism. I was able to see the positive influence we made in high schools and colleges around the world which was extremely impactful for me. I’m really looking forward to this semester to inspiring more youth around the world. I want to help them believe they have a voice and have the ability to also make an impact on others.”

What was it like meeting your host family for the first time?

“At first I found it scary, but meeting my host family for the first time changed all of that. During my first semester, my host mom was so kind and welcoming. We got along so well! We watched a lot of Stranger Things together in the time she hosted me. You become acclimated to host family living quickly and you become really close. We still stay in touch and I ended up staying with the same host mom in Denver, Colorado again this semester! 

What are you most excited about during your tour in Up with People?

“I’m most excited to see how everyone else grows. In Up With People, you spend a lot of time volunteering, reflecting, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone each and every day. I feel like there is so much to gain through that. I’m excited to see how people are inspired.”

Why do you think a program like Up with People is important?

“Up With People continues to change the way young people are seen in the public eye and the way young people view themselves. By presenting as young professionals everywhere we go, it’s easy for the older generation or even other people our age to understand that we’re the change for the world, and we are more than capable.

What made you return for a second semester?

“Earlier this year in my initial Up with People tour, I felt that I grew and experienced so many new things. I was excited to come back, participate in the study abroad program and be a young person making passionate change. I also want to focus on my leadership abilities while helping first semester travelers throughout their Up with People journey.”

What advice would you give others who want to join the Up with People program?

“Just do it! Be fearless and join the program. Up With People is the only place where people love you before they meet you. Come and be a part of that family.”


“Let the voice of women be heard through us all,
Let it tear down every brick of every wall.”

Footsteps of a Girl © Up with People

Where Are They Now? Interview with Alumnus, Dave Smith

Up with People alumnus, Dave Smith (otherwise known as ‘Taco Dave’) shares his story of traveling in Up with People and how it has impacted his career path by becoming a Franchisee for Taco Bell, Hot Dog on a Stick, and more!

Up with People Alumnus, Before and After
(On Left) Dave during his time in Up with People in 1974. (On Right) Dave today.

Where are you originally from? 

“I’m from Sacramento, CA.”

When did you travel in Up with People? What was your role?  

“1974-75 as a cast member.”

What is your current position now? What does that entail? 

“I have been a Taco Bell Franchisee for 38 years, running all facets of a quick service restaurant company for 37 restaurants and 1,500 employees. I also own several Pretzelmakers, Mrs. Fields Cookie stores, TCBY and Hot Dog on a Stick franchises.”

How did traveling with Up with People prepare you for this position? 

Up with People provided many leadership opportunities. I developed social skills and was for the first time in my life exposed to so many diverse people with different backgrounds and cultures. This has led to a life that is full of knowledge and understanding of people and has enabled me to have a sincere concern in caring for my customers, my team and my community.” 

How did Up with People impact your life both personally and professionally?

“Personally, it built my confidence and enabled relationship building skills. Up with People provided a world view and global perspective I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Experiencing that has created a lifetime of community service for me. Professionally, I believe it has helped my provide avenues to create purpose to our business and teams by including community service into our business model and is a founding principle to our company.”

What advice would you give our youth in pursuing their passion/career?

“Do something you love have a passion for and serve a greater purpose than yourself. Always accept opportunities for leadership to expand beyond your comfort zone. Make a plan, set your course and work toward achieving that goal.”

Dave Smith, Up with People Alumnus
Dave Smith, Up with People Alumnus

Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do? 

“I started out working for a nonprofit, The Boy Scouts of America and doing community service. My passion was to help people. I enjoyed business school and working in a large corporation, and when my Dad who owned two Taco Bells asked me to help build his company, I immediately took the opportunity and never looked back. That was 38 years ago.” I have always felt that those who have resources are in a better position to make a real difference in people’s lives. All of the causes I have supported over the years are only possible because the hard work of building a successful business.”

What was a favorite moment while traveling in Up with People? 

“Bus rides, host family experiences and making such wonderful friends.”

What would you tell someone who was considering traveling in Up with People? 

“Enjoy every new experience, ask lots of questions to everyone you meet and give 100% of what you have to offer.”

What are the top three things you learned during your experience in Up with People?

  1. To live in new and different environments
  2. To have conversations with people who have completely different and unique life experiences than myself
  3. That serving people is incredibly rewarding

How do you keep hope alive?

“I create opportunities to give back and ensure that I always have two or three big causes that my company and myself can personally impact in a positive way.”

“The beauty of life shines around you
Like the sun breaking through the storm that has been,
But sometimes you can’t see the rainbow
If you feel like a stranger on the outside looking in.”

Till Everyone Is Home © Up with People

Up with People Elects Dennis Walto to Board

dennis waltoDenver, CO – Up with People, the Denver-based nonprofit focused on youth building global understanding through music, education and social action, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dennis Walto to its Board of Directors.  Walto is the eighteenth member of the board and was approved for a three-year term.

Dennis Walto currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Health Fund, a U.S. based organization committed to ensuring access to high quality health care for children living in poverty.  He is a social development entrepreneur and leader who has spent his career thus far trying to make the world a better place.

Prior to joining Children’s Health Fund, Dennis held a variety of leadership roles with global organizations including Save the Children, Population Services International, and the International Medical Corps.  He also has held key U.S. positions with Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, and the National Health Care for Homeless Council. Dennis is a regular contributor to thought leadership platforms and received his Master of Arts Degree from York St. John University with a thesis on Positive Organizational Development.

Up with People President and CEO, Dale Penny remarked, “We are excited to bring Dennis’ energy, global experiences and not-for-profit expertise on to our board.  This is an exciting time for our organization, and we expect Dennis will contribute to our growth and success.”

Upon being appointed to the Up with People Board, Dennis said, “Young people are not just tomorrow, they are today; they are more than the future, they are the now.  I am thrilled to be a part of a positive youth development movement that can unite young people around the world through music, education and social action.”

For More Information Contact:

Amy Jordan, Community Relations and Event Specialist
Phone: 720-215-3207

Where Are They Now? Interview with Koen Suidgeest

Koen Suidgeest is an alumnus of the Up with People program. Since his time traveling in the program as a cast and staff member, he has gone on to become a successful documentary filmmaker, photographer and now an author with his new book, Why I Cry On Airplanes. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about his time traveling in Up with People and how those experiences have translated into his own personal and professional life now in the Netherlands. 

Photographer in Malawi
Koen in Malawi

Where are you originally from?

I am from the Netherlands.

documentary film maker in Malawi
Koen in Malawi

When did you travel in Up with People? What was your role? 

I started traveling my first year as a student in January of 1988. Up with People was then a twelve month program. Six months after coming off the road at the end of 1988, I was offered a position as a Promotion Representative as a support for the cast on the road. I graciously accepted and from there stayed on for another three years. I made it to Marketing Manager and spent the final six months of my tenure as a Special Projects Manager running two big events in Europe.

What is your current position? What does that entail?

I am a documentary filmmaker and photographer. I work freelance and make films that are broadcast internationally, travel in the festival circuit, are shown in cinemas and are used for education and activism worldwide. Most of my work is in human rights, with a special focus on motherhood, children’s rights and women’s rights, generally in countries where there is extreme poverty. 

I also directed two commissioned documentaries on LGBT issues around the globe. About half of my productions are commissions from human rights and international development organizations. The other half is free work, which I initiate myself and tends to be for television. As part of my photography work, I created three traveling exhibitions and am currently producing my first photo book, entitled Why I Cry On Airplanes.

How did traveling with Up with People prepare you for this position? 

In many ways, my years in Up with People fit neatly between a future dream and my current reality. From early childhood, I was always a person that was concerned with the world around him. I cared about people’s well-being, about justice and equality, about issues of war and peace… So I knew early on that I wanted to work in journalism or film. 

However, when I came to the end of secondary school, I didn’t feel ready yet to pursue further education. I was young and from a small town. I felt that I had to travel first, open my eyes, shed some of my naïvety and get to know myself. My year in Up with People turned into four years and through hardships and victories, I achieved my goal by a long stretch and in so many ways.

Koen, documentary film maker and photographerHow did Up with People impact your life both personally and professionally?

From the moment you step out of Up with People, it doesn’t leave you. It’s always a part of your life. Mostly because you just spent a considerable amount of time locked like sardines in a bus (and the occasional airplane) in a high impact, inspiring and educational program that takes you to countries and situations you might have never found yourself in otherwise. So the impact is ongoing, albeit different for every individual.

On a personal level, for me it’s all about people. The friendships stick. They are truly for life. Sometimes they even continue to bring surprises, like the beauty of being life-long friends with someone you were maybe not so close with on the road. So yes, it’s the people you meet and come to love that provide the most enduring impact. This is certainly the case for me.

On a professional level, of course Up with People was a first step to what is currently a busy traveling life. These days I am quite the frequent flyer, often to remote locations that are not so easy to visit. I feel that my time in Up with People has contributed greatly in how I currently navigate new cultures, people and situations. I learned something real about diversity from all the host families I stayed with, and the hundreds of cast members I travelled with. Up with People was my stepping stone, although of course I continue to learn every day.

What advice would you give our youth in pursuing their passion/career?

Follow that passion. It might not come out exactly how you imagined it, but in time it will bring you happiness in one way or another. I think young people are truly our best hope for the world. That sounds like a cliché, but I didn’t always think that. These days, while societies are engulfed in polarisation, I see a lot of concern among young people for the state of our world. I believe that young people are more often choosing life paths focussed on improving the world they live in – lives that don’t necessarily make them rich but enrich them all the more.

What are your favorite moments from traveling in Up with People?

There are many favorite moments and I find it hard to choose one. There were many special moments of course, related to big events, powerful community involvement or special shows. But I guess my favorite ones remain the smaller personal moments. 

Up with People gap year program
Koen at the Up with People final banquet for his cast in 1991.

I still get choked up today when I think of that host family in Colorado of a father and two little girls who had lost their wife/mother some months earlier. They were still deeply mourning. I remember thinking that it was very courageous of the father to decide to host. I don’t think I did anything different than usual, but my host dad wrote me a long letter after the visit making me understand what an enormous source of light my visit had been in a time of otherwise relative darkness. It was one of those moments where making a difference was not very tangible, but incredibly impactful. You can’t plan for stuff like that, it just happens. It’s these very personal and unexpected moments that remain my favorites.

What would you tell someone who was considering traveling in Up with People?

I would always encourage anyone to undertake any kind of traveling experience in the early stages of adulthood, regardless of the chosen program. That being said, if Up with People is your choice, the first thing I would say is: don’t doubt, just do it! And once you’re on your way, I would advise you to look outward. The cast itself is already a complex microcosm of special experiences, and sometimes it’s easy to forget to look beyond that. But outside the window of the bus and off the stage, there are limitless learning opportunities. Often they are in really small things. So keep those eyes open and ask as many questions as you can.

What are the top 3 things you learned during your experience in Up with People?

  1. As I grew up from that small town boy to a world citizen, I became more open and more thankful for our differences.
  2. I learned to navigate new cultures and connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds.
  3. Taking initiative and responsibility for my own path was a huge learning experience.
  4. And of course, I learned swing claps…. 😉

How do you keep hope alive?

As a father of two teenage girls and a documentary maker, I am doing the best I can. Every day of my life, believe me.


Koen Suidgeest’s upcoming photo book about his travels is available for pre-order as of May 1st, 2019 at 

To get more information on Koen’s work and to get in touch, please visit

“It’s an unfinished world
And it’s still in the making.
It’ll take all we can give
‘cause together we all live
In an unfinished world.”

Unfinished World © Up with People

President & CEO Dale Penny Announces His Retirement

From Dale Penny


To the Up with People Board of Directors, Staff, Cast Members, Alumni, Camper Families, Host Families and Friends,

Five years ago I was honored to be asked to serve as President and Chief Executive Officer of Up with People. Since then I have had the privilege of working with a passionate and talented staff and a dedicated Board of Directors. After much consideration I will be retiring from this position effective January 1, 2020 or until a successor is selected.

Dale Penny, President and CEO of Up with People announces his retirementThis has not been an easy decision to make. Over the past 48 years I have had the opportunity to be involved in Up with People in numerous roles – sponsor, cast member, road staff, office staff, host family, spouse of an alumna, parent of two alumni, member of the Board of Directors and my current role.  As with many of you, my relationship with UWP has never been simply a professional one. I feel a personal connection to the program and a responsibility to help ensure its future.

I believe, however, that there are times in an organization’s development which offer a natural moment  for leadership change, and this is one of those times. The Board of Directors and staff, with input from alumni and friends, have outlined a vision for the future that extends Up with People’s reach, touches the lives of more youth and communities, and puts UWP on the road to continue thriving into the future.

This transformation will not come immediately and will require a steady and consistent leader over the next several years. As much as I’d like to, I cannot make that commitment. I believe that now is the time for a new President/CEO to take the reins and guide UWP through this historic phase with fresh perspectives, ideas, energy and leadership skills.

It is not my intention to leave Up with People, however. As you have heard me say, I believe that Up with People’s mission — empowering youth to be agents of change for a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world — has never been so essential. As one of our recent alumni from Cast A2019 just posted, “There is so much work to do in this world…and I believe this program has prepared me to give my 100% to making this world better. One step at a time.” For her and for the 22,000+ alumni who have shared this experience, I am committed to continue advocating for, promoting, recruiting and helping ensure thousands more youth will be served by UWP in the decades to come.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as your President and CEO these past years. When the time comes for me to leave this role, I will do so with profound appreciation to the Board of Directors, staff, cast members and the thousands of alumni and supporters who have joined with us. I am proud of what we have accomplished together and excited about the future of Up with People.