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Local high school students have the opportunity to travel to Africa with Shawn Askinosie, founder of Askinosie Chocolate. Students will travel as part of Chocolate University, a program within Askinosie Chocolate that inspires local students to learn business skills and get involved in the world beyond Springfield. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark talks to Askinosie, who shares how students can get involved in the program.
Attention all current Springfield high school juniors: you have the opportunity to travel to the village of Tenende, Tanzania to gain first-hand experience in what Shawn Askinosie calls “global responsibility.” Students who are entering seniors in fall of 2012 are eligible to apply for the 10-day trip. Askinosie says this is the second year Chocolate University has put on a trip like this.
“The experience will involve two parts: one will be staying on campus for several days at Drury University learning about our business, learning about chocolate making, about evaluating cocoa beans. They will also learn about Tanzanian culture and the Swahili language. The second part of the trip is actually going to Tanzania because it’s not just going to that country, but it’s going to meet with cocoa farmers that I buy beans from.”
According to the CIA World Factbook, Tanzania has one of the world’s poorest economies, which depends heavily on agriculture. The country currently faces environmental issues like soil degradation, deforestation and recent droughts.
On this trip, Askinosie plans to take the students to meet with cocoa farmers who produce the beans used by Askinosie Chocolate here in Springfield. He and the students also have the opportunity to implement a lunch program at a high school in Tenende, where 1,100 students currently eat only one meal a day. Askinosie says he believes this trip will be something the Springfield students never forget.
“One of the students last year sent a text message home to his mother and he said, ‘This is the best day of my life.’ It doesn’t get much better than that. I know other students had similar experiences. One of our students last year actually took a gap year after high school, and she moved to Tanzania. She was so inspired by this trip to learn Swahili and to spend some additional time in the village where we buy cocoa beans.”
There are a limited number of spots available for Springfield students to join Askinosie on the trip. The cost of the trip is $3,500, and students must apply by January 31. Askinosie says full scholarships to cover the cost of the program are available.
“People can make tax deductible donations to the Chocolate University fund if they want to help sponsor kids to go on this trip, but a lot of the money comes from us. The way we sponsor a lot of our Chocolate University programs is by tours of our factory. So every tour dollar—100 percent of every tour dollar—goes to Chocolate University and the fund.”
Askinosie says a committee, made up of people from Askinosie Chocolate and Drury University, will help select the scholarship winners.
The trip is scheduled for June 29 – July 8, 2012. All application forms and instructions, as well as scholarship applications, can be found at www.chocolateuniversity.org.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark