On Saturday morning, when most kids his age are waking up to Apple Jacks and music videos, University Preparatory High School junior Matthew Singleton has a mission to attend to: washing cars so he can go to Africa.
Singleton is one of eight kids from the charter schools University Preparatory High School and University Preparatory Academy who are participating in a pilgrimage to Africa, July 1 through 18.
The students who range from seventh to 11th grade are about to get a crash course in reality: On this trip, the youngsters will tackle such issues as the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as the educational, economic and global issues of the continent. They will visit South Africa and Senegal.
Singleton hopes to gain a sense of accomplishment from his journey.
"I want to be able to look back on my time in high school and realize that I did something great," Singleton says. "I also want to get more aware of the issues that South Africa and Senegal are having and what I can do to help or what my community can do to help."
At the academy, Singleton and his peers wave down motorists for $5 washes, undaunted by the scorching summer sun and a mile-long funeral line blocking their spot. They have less than three weeks to raise more than $8,000 for their trip.
Student advisor Matthew Marks, who organized the trip with advisor Jessica Martiny, says the schools have been doing fund raising and community outreach since December.
The budget per student is approximately $4,400, including an $850 per student Learning Circle Network conference in Capetown, South Africa, where the kids will talk about global affairs with other students from the United States and South Africa.
Marks says visiting the continent himself last year helped him to see the many parallels between black people in America and black people in Africa. He hopes that the students, who are primarily African-American, will gain the same perspective.
"We hope that maybe we'll spark an interest in them to travel the world and do other things," Marks says. "The trip to Africa will dispel the myths that they may have about the continent. Seeing these things will give them a sense of pride."
The group's next fund-raiser will be a movie screening and discussion of 1 Nation, 2 Worlds by Wayne State University alumnus Qasim Basir at 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 23, at University Preparatory High School, 630 Antoinette, Detroit; 313-874-4340. Suggested donation is $25. (Tax-deductible donations available.)Markeysha Davis is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org