World Classrooms is bringing the Midwest into a new era of education
When friends Al Ward and Brett Newton decided to go into business together, they weren’t sure at first which direction to go. They did, however, know that it had to have significance. “We wanted to build something that would really impact the community in a positive way, and at the same time something that we were really passionate about,” says Al.
After much prayer, and a few frustrations along the way, they arrived at the idea of educational travel and created World Classrooms. This would combine Al’s 30 plus years of travel with Brett’s background in education in order to create something truly unique and special. In fact, there are no other businesses in the Midwest that offer what World Classrooms does.
Their vision, as listed on the company website, is to give students the platform to explore history, science, music, and art in an environment outside of the classroom. World Classrooms specializes primarily in student trips to Washington, D.C. and New York City, though they have lead trips to Chicago, Boston, and some international locations.
One of the central ideas that helped develop World Classrooms is the idea that no one should be reduced to their GPA or a test score. “Every student is unique and has something special to give. We’re pretty passionate about the positive impact we can have on kids’ lives, both on and after the trip,” explains Brett.
That’s why the trips World Classrooms puts together are such a mix of fun and education. “Those moments that we can give the kids a break are huge because they’ll be engaged right after that,” says Brett. These breaks consist of anything from dancing and listening to music on buses, to visiting famous bowling alleys and cupcake shops in the area.
“We have rules… but we make the rules fun to follow,” explains Al. On World Classrooms trips, students are taught how to be world travelers, which includes always saying please and thank you, picking up after themselves, sticking to the “Never-Alone” rule, and leaving hotel rooms tidy. “These teens are great people and they prove it every day; we seldom have any problems.”
A study listed on World Classrooms’ website shows that the youth who embark on these journeys are actually better students when they return home. Fifty-seven percent are more likely to get a college degree or receive secondary education, and fifty-nine percent have said it helped them achieve better grades. The experiences they have on these trips teach students to be creative, use their insight, have fun, make huge strides in personal growth, and change into whoever they want to become.
For even the most cautious of people, World Classrooms has you covered. “The thing that stands out about us, what’s really unique, is that we’re there from the start, answering questions, meeting with parents, being available at any time,” says Brett. “We’re intricately involved in the entire process at the school, in order to give the teachers and parents peace of mind about travel.”
Safety is, in fact, their top priority. Many features are put in place to guarantee that students are safe and accounted for at all times on their journey. These include round-the-clock-tour directors, adult chaperones, health and medical coverage, 24-7 emergency support, and night security. “Everything with us is turn-key,” explains Brett. Everything is included in the trip price: all transportation costs, admission fees, meals, lodging accommodations, and guided tours.
World Classrooms has worked with about 60 schools across five states, including ones in Aberdeen, Warner, Miller, Webster, Watertown, and Mitchell. “The principals and teachers in the schools that we get to partner with every day are the cream of the crop individuals,” says Al. “They are selfless educators who are paying a price to stay in South Dakota and mold our state’s future.”
What’s most important to the team is that this opportunity is available to all students, regardless of their parent’s socio-economic status. That’s why they start planning trips 15-20 months in advance. To make these trips accessible, World Classrooms offers several different payment plans for their program.
And while they have planned many trips over the course of their three years in business, Al can honestly say that every single one has been memorable, because each trip is full of its own unique and unexpected surprises— from walking in on a presidential caravan to watching street performers play multicultural music. Some of Al’s favorite moments have come from the students. “When you get on the plane with students who have never been on an airplane…and just see the look on their faces as we lift off, or the time they go, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s the U.S. Capital. I see it, I see it!’”
It’s reactions like this that keep Al, Brett, and the entire team at World Classrooms working so hard to pursue the values that they believe so firmly in. There are over a thousand students signed up for these trips next summer alone. And this is all from the hard work of 12 extremely dedicated and passionate employees. “This is a big deal. We feel like travel is a huge part of [students’] education and it isn’t going away,” says Brett. // – Erin Ballard
World Classrooms offices are located at the Aberdeen Development Center’s Smart Center in the Industrial Park. For more information you can reach them by phone at (800) 275-3980.