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Jolene Fernandez

“UWP showed me how unique perspective is as a Native woman and broadened my view of the world.”

Up with People was an important part of my life. I didn’t have the same foundation as everyone else. I come from two different Native American tribes, which made me frequently question my identity. My mother is from Elem Pomo Colony, California and my father is from the Navajo Nation, where I grew up.

Withouta strong lineage and traditional wisdom, I had to find my bearing by myself. Many times I struggled until I traveled with Up with People’s international program. The only Native American in the large group, I walked in with apprehension, only to be met with compassion, friendliness, respect for my unique perspective. UWP gave me a window to my myself and the world; learning to shed my perceptions and broadening my views; a life changing experience and the confidence to find my Voice, connections and friends across the globe.

Most of all, I found the community to address challenges I saw in underdeveloped communities. I am using my experience to find solutions and be an inspiration for my tribal lands. I hope to inspire more Native youth to explore and find their Voice to be global changemakers.

Laurel Quinn Robinson

“I’ve been profoundly impacted by Up with People, which exposed me to Deafness, Deaf Culture, and American Sign Language.”

While the music was always a passion, everything changed when I met my first Deaf student during a performance at a Deaf and Blind school. This encounter changed my life path, and I’ve been a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for 40 years now. I have shared my experiences of Up with People with them, and how it broadened my perspective of the World.

I’ve been profoundly impacted by Up with People, which exposed me to Deafness, Deaf Culture, and American Sign Language. I met and conversed with my first Deaf student, when we performed at a Deaf and Blind school, and I knew at that moment that my life path would forever change. Every year that I have taught, I have told my Deaf and Hard of Hearing students that they can change the world. They have something so unique to share, that only they can distribute it.

You can learn about different cultures and places from books, but traveling to those places and experiencing them firsthand gives you a perspective that forever changes you. I want those new experiences for my Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.So, I wrote a book, ” A Boy Named Broccoli” , about my experiences with Up with People, as well as how my students have changed my life. I want to use the proceeds from the book to enrich their lives with travel.

Dave Smith

“Learning in real-time to understand different cultures, lifestyles, and life experiences was one of the most important parts of becoming a better leader and human being.”

My story with Up with People was a growing experience that began as a 17-year-old middleclass teenager with no history of travel, and little exposure to racial differences, religious beliefs, or world cultures different than my family or peer groups.

The experience enabled me to develop a worldview that seeks to be open and honest in my communications and to understand different perspectives while simultaneously sharing my thoughts and beliefs and perspectives. The three strong principles that I have kept in my life that have come from the year with UWP are a strong interest in helping community programs that support people, ensuring my beliefs are shared but not forced on others, and a real bond with people from other countries and cultures.

I have always felt Up with People had a special meaning and unique purpose in building relationships, creating a compassionate heart and enabling thoughtful expression of ideas. I use those leadership principles in many decisions I’ve made and have continued to grow towards mentorship of others in their journey as well.

David Burton

“UWP gave ordinary people extraordinary opportunities. It was an experience about connection with people: cast members, host families, communities, and the world. It was a transformational journey.”

Originally from Australia, I joined Up with People as a rookie PR Rep in 1994. Although my plan was to do one year, I ended up staying for seven years. I did a variety of positions and ended up in my final role as the General Manager for Cast A 2000.

I can say that Up with People was the single most important event that shaped my entire life. Personally, my closest friendships were forged there and are still there from that time. Professionally I learnt so many skills from logistics, production, managing people, critical thinking and problem solving.The values of compassion, empathy, curiosity, listening and leading that I learnt in UWP are still the values I hold close to my heart to this day.

After I left UWP I continued my journey in helping people develop skills and experiences to connect with those around them, whether personally or professionally through being a trainer in the corporate world. All the skills and experiences I had learnt in UWP allowed me to engage and deliver to diverse group of people. My UWP experience brought the world closer to me and me closer to the world.

Cory Candelet

“UWP completely altered my life direction in the best way possible, singing and dancing around the world was my goal, but building relationships in the community had the biggest impact on me the most.”

As an 18-year-old, I had never traveled outside of the northeast corner of the USA. I joined Up With People because I wanted to sing and dance around the world. At the time, everything else was secondary. However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t just about the performances. It was about the relationships I formed with people in the communities we visited. UWP completely altered the direction of my life in the best way possible.

Through Up With People, I met so many incredible people who have had a lasting impact on my life. I learned that places become people when you are out in the community creating relationships. Late-night conversations, small conversations after shows, debates over breakfast, or online talks years later – UWP brought so many amazing people into my life that I have and will continue to learn from every day.

I am still performing and spreading Up With People’s core values to all that I come into contact with. Currently, I am touring the US with a new kids’ musical. Getting to meet the kids after the shows and hearing their takeaways and ideas has been such a rewarding experience. I can only hope that I am impacting them in a similar way that Up With People impacted me!

Hina Fukuda

“Attending UWP was a positive, transformative experience for me. I met people from diverse cultures, broadening my perspectives and gaining self-awareness.”

I truly enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and getting to learn about different cultures. My experience with UWP was a very positive one,It meant a shift in my whole life. Through various experiences, I gained confidence in making decisions and understanding my likes and dislikes.

I experienced so many new things at UWP. I was able to broaden my perspectives by meeting so many people with different backgrounds and from various countries. I got to know myself better. I was able to see what I like and what made me happy, what I dislike, and what made me frustrated, angry, or sad.

Going through all the various experiences at UWP, gave me more confidence, and now, when I need to make a decision in life or anything, I believe I can make a better choice based on knowing myself better through all the different circumstances I went through. I continue to make new friends from all over the world and that itself I think carries the values of UWP which leads to world peace.

Bertil Vestergard Laier

“Hey! My name is Bertil Vestergård Laier. I am 19-years-old and come from a small village that goes under the amazing name of Kvols. 

“The amount of opportunity the program provides has been very surprising. I have to admit that I just kind of jumped into the whole experience. I just said yes to joining the program, and everything else has come as a surprise. When I landed in Denver, I pretty much knew nothing about the program except what I had seen in the show. But holy moly, a lot of things have surprised me. The people, the opportunities, the volunteering, the long days, and so much more.

Antonio Leyva

For me, UWP is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I feel like I found a family and met other people that think like me. I also enjoyed the travel because I saw new cultures, how other people feel and think, and how they live their daily lives. It was amazing in every way. The education, the social service, the impact was amazing. The performance was so cool as well – you just feel like a rockstar, and it’s awesome to make music with your friends.

Beto Hernandez

I would like to give thanks to Up with People, the nonprofit that taught me, no matter who we are, where we are from, or how we do it, we all have a gift to give to the world. Because of UWP, I am at a moment in my life story where I am happy, valued, and safe. Thank you, Up with People, for giving me the power to be myself.