Sam G’s love for education, as well as a willingness to get out of his comfort zone, led him on an amazing entrepreneurial journey. When Sam was 13 years old, he joined his school’s annual trip to Washington, D.C. “I’ve always been the kind of person that was fascinated with history. I would be that nerd in the library, reading medieval history books. So when I had the opportunity to see and experience a piece of our nation’s history, I knew I wanted to go on tour.” Not only did the trip get him out of his comfort zone (this was the first time he was away from his parents), but it also opened his eyes to what he was learning in school. “It was powerful to be able to interact outside of the classroom with what I was passionate about–by going to national monuments and seeing them firsthand instead of in a textbook.”
A few years after his trip to Washington, D.C., Sam came across a post on EF’s Facebook page promoting the Global Citizen Scholarship. Students can apply and earn a trip by creating a 2-3 minute video project that highlights or proposes a solution around the upcoming Global Leadership Summit theme. In 2015, the theme was The Future of Education and he jumped at the chance to express his views. He wrote an eight-page essay about the state of language learning in the United States, and after some initial hesitancy was convinced by his English teacher, as well as friends and family, to apply. “Having a supportive community behind me was especially important because it pushed me past my nerves and showed me that the risk is worth it for the reward. That was a really pivotal moment for me, and helped define the rest of my high school career as well as what I’m doing now.”
As a recipient of the Global Citizen Scholarship, Sam went on tour and then traveled to EF’s Global Leadership Summit–held in Davos, Switzerland that year. There he heard from and met important leaders in education, including keynote speaker Sir Ken Robinson. He was able to share his passion for education and learning with thousands of people, and turn his life-changing experience into a program that could help others like him.
“EF let me know that I could apply to things like that and once I got it, I started to think about how we could provide these transformative opportunities to other students.” With a newfound confidence and recipe for success, Sam focused on how he could make a difference in education. As a result, he co-founded Peerlift, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming access to opportunities for low- and middle-income students. “It’s incredibly difficult for students to find out about opportunities that could change your life. Because the infrastructure to pass this information along is not in place, students either didn’t know about them or they don’t feel confident enough to apply even if they did. We want to change that.”
Since its inception just a few years ago, Peerlift has grown at an accelerated pace. From partnering up with organizations such as the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation to receiving grants from powerhouses like Google.org, it’s safe to say that Peerlift, and Sam, have the potential to make a difference for hundreds, even thousands of students.
Amazingly, Sam is only 18 years old, but he has proven that anyone can have an impact on the world, no matter what age. So what would Sam say is the greatest lesson he learned from traveling? “I saw that a lot of what I had previously taken for granted could be changed. So, the way I learn and how others learn can change. EF helped me realize my potential, and once I did, the floodgates opened.”