Inside Fremont’s Milliken Park Elementary School gym back in 2005 sat 10-year old Corey Archer who as a fourth grader listened wide-eyed to the tales of adventures of a local explorer who traveled the world.
“I remembered looking at the images of interesting places and the travelers’ hat the presenter wore at the programs,” Archer said.
Thirteen years later, Archer found himself on an adventure with the very explorer he once listened to as a kid in elementary school. And the local explorer, if you haven’t guessed by now, that explorer was, me, Dean Jacobs.
Archer just graduated and was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon, (Sig Ep) fraternity at the University of Nebraska.
For the last five years, I have led a group of young men from this organization on an enrichment adventure to explore and experience culture in the world. The purpose is to discover something about the world, while at the same time, learning something about themselves.
Each trip has three fundamental rules.
The first rule: I am not a babysitter. I was 21 once, and did stupid things — do not do this while I am responsible for you.
Rule number two: This is not a trip to the rainforest exhibit at the zoo. We will see what we see. Translation: no whining or complaining about anything.
Rule number three: Come with the attitude to give. Be a “yes” for the opportunities that unfold. Help bring school materials to a school in need. Jump in and help without being asked.
These rules are not debatable. If they don’t work for the participant, I’m good with that clarity, it just means I am not the guy to lead their trip.
By the time they sign up, they are clear and willing to take a leap of faith. For sure I have been blessed with spending time with incredible young men who are in the Sig Ep fraternity. These journeys have allowed them to grow into a fuller version of who they already are.
During my elementary school presentations, I often ask, “who would like to go explore with me one day?”
The purpose behind this question is to plant the seeds of desire in the hearts and minds of the young students in the audience. To help them start creating dreams. It’s not about whether they go with me that’s important. It’s their desire to explore and to believe in their dreams that matters.
It only took 13 years for one of those dreams to come true.
“I’ve always wanted to travel,” Archer explained. “But when I thought about traveling, I thought about seeing things, not so much about connecting with a different culture.”
At the core of my trips is the opportunity to connect with a different culture. I believe it’s the opportunity to see the world through a different set of eyes that allows one to expand their perspective and grow.
“It was so rewarding to connect with these cultures and participate in their rituals,” Archer said. “They place such a high value on family. It’s humbling to see how the kids here have such respect for the elders in the community.”
One thing that impacted Archer, in particular, was the cultural traditions.
“They have traditions that bind and link the generations. I believe it supports them to pass down universal principals, morals, and values that help guide the community,” he said. “Spending time with these cultures has allowed me to deepen the appreciation I have with my own family. To find a special joy to be with my family that has nothing to do with material things.”
Our culture in the United States puts a premium on material wealth. And while there is nothing wrong with wealth, it will never be a substitute for relationships with those we love. So, taking young men away from this and dropping them into a different value system has an incredible way of being a wake-up call.
Lessons better learned young than later on in life.
“In the United States we have things so easy, this trip has taught me how to appreciate how good we have it back home,” Archer said.