Skip to main content


29 Nov, 2020   |   

A Note from the President & CEO

A Note from the President & CEO:

I am writing with sincerest wishes that you and those you love are safe and healthy and making plans for a joyful – if unique – holiday season.

Today, I am pleased to present Up with People’s annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.  We are living in extraordinary times, but we have much to be grateful for as an organization and as a community.  During the months since we last communicated with you in April, we’ve seen our share of challenges and difficult decisions, but I am more confident than ever that we can weather this storm – together.  We’re incredibly grateful for the talented individuals that support UWP on many levels, including our alumni, Board of Directors, and our small, but mighty, staff contingent.  Your commitment and generosity of spirit, time, and effort is our greatest asset as well as a daily source of inspiration for us as we work to build Up with People’s future.

View the 2020 Annual Report Here

The financial state of our organization is lean but solid.   I am happy to report that Up with People closed FY20 in the black and received a clean bill of health in our annual financial audit.  You can find a full copy of the FY 2020 audit here.

Maintaining financial stability has not been easy because we haven’t had any student or tour revenue since March.  To achieve this goal, significant downsizing occurred in various areas of the organization, including personnel and physical assets.  Our original team of 28 regional office staff and 30 road staff is now 8 active employees (some of whom are part-time) and 4 people currently on furlough living throughout the US, Europe and Mexico.  I am confident that the skills of this group will meet the organization’s basic needs and those of our alumni and other constituent groups for now.  But, if this pandemic continues longer than expected, further cuts may be required. Accordingly, we will stay very small until we can see the resumption of UWP’s student activities on the horizon. At that time, we will begin to expand our team to include the additional staff necessary to market and recruit for our first programs.  Meanwhile, as the current team works remotely, we have successfully subleased a significant portion of our contracted office space. We have also been able to sell off non-essential liabilities, such as our fleet of tour vehicles.

Nonetheless, this has been a tough time and the picture would not be complete without recognizing the emotional and financial pain suffered by those directly impacted by the events of the past year – most notably the students of our A’20 cast, as well as the members of the staff family who are no longer part of the team.

As for the A’20 cast, we have granted all cast members the option of using a credit to join a future Up with People tour at no additional cost.  For those who could not or did not choose this option, we studied the matter very closely and offered the best refund option that we could under the circumstances.  Regardless of the option they choose, through their resilience, optimism and perseverance, they have earned our respect and gratitude and we are proud to call them Up with People alumni.

Regarding staff, I want to express our gratitude to the folks that served on our own Coronavirus Taskforce.  The group, headed by Ken Leist, began meeting the morning Monday of March 2nd – right after our Gala.  This group met every morning and worked around the clock to protect the safety of our traveling students and staff, making contingency plans, communications and ultimately executing the safe evacuation of all of our students.  This team did amazing work in an evolving and uncertain environment.  We should all be very proud of them:

Thank you to Eric Lentz, Brad Bungum, Ken Leist, Shawna Reed, Amy Jordan Russ and Stephanie Villegas as well as A20 Cast Director Likun Tang!

While we have not had a touring cast since March, we have done our best to use this time to improve UWP at every level.  Our unwavering focus has been on the future – reflecting, reimagining and redesigning our programmatic offerings and, indeed, the organization itself.   Launched in April of this year, the UWP Project 3.0 team has been working overtime, conducting hundreds of interviews with non-UWP international students and reaching out to the full spectrum of UWP constituents, including UWP alumni, sponsors, and donors in order to gain insight as to how UWP can best serve this population in the future.  Fortified with this information, and with an in-depth understanding of comparative programs, the Project 3.0 team is designing future programs that will provide today’s youth with an exceptional international experience while highlighting UWP’s capabilities as a first-class youth development program.

In closing, as most of you know, I started as UWP’s President & CEO this past January.  This year has been quite a ride. COVID-19 hit just seven weeks in and nothing has been the same for UWP—or for any of us—since.   I am so grateful for your support, and I feel so amazed, inspired, and thankful to you all for continuing to support UWP in every way, including being proud alumni, even during these uncertain times.  Thank you for being part of what I know will be a bright and exciting future for Up with People!

All my best,

Vernon C. Grigg III




No Comments yet!

Your Email address will not be published.