Northeast Times

Trip of a lifetime, but will Milton go?

11-year-old Milton Owens is do­ing everything he can to raise money for an edu­ca­tion­al trip to Eng­land and France. Be­cause his fam­ily has little monthly in­come, Owens and his moth­er have or­gan­ized fund-rais­ing ef­forts to pay his share of the trip.

Like any moth­er, Mary Boone is nervous as her son pre­pares to leave the coun­try for the first time.

She is proud of him and ex­cited for his ex­per­i­ences, she said, but there is a part of her that will really miss him.

Still, Boone re­minds her­self that these two weeks abroad will change the life of her son, Milton Owens, for the bet­ter and give him memor­ies for years to come. 

Owens’ trip isn’t an or­din­ary one.

And Owens is far from be­ing an or­din­ary boy. 

The 11-year-old from Kens­ing­ton is in sixth grade at the Rus­sell Con­well Middle Mag­net School. He’s also men­tally gif­ted and of­ten tu­tors oth­er stu­dents, and he’s act­ive in the chess and sign-lan­guage clubs.

He dreams of be­ing a mar­ine bio­lo­gist when he grows up.

Owens also is the young­est of 15 chil­dren who sur­vive on their mom’s in­come of only about $700 to $900 a month.

The young­ster re­cently was one of three stu­dents at his school chosen to join an in­ter­na­tion­al People to People Stu­dent Am­bas­sad­or trip, a chap­eroned pro­gram that af­fords par­ti­cipants high-school cred­it, to en­joy an­oth­er coun­try’s cul­ture and sights while hav­ing an edu­ca­tion­al ex­per­i­ence.

However, Owens will not be able to go on the trip without over­com­ing some bar­ri­ers. Al­though he plans to be part of the least-ex­pens­ive trip offered — a 14-day ad­ven­ture through Eng­land and France — tu­ition for the pro­gram is still $5,000.

It’s a re­l­at­ively pro­hib­it­ive cost for the fam­ily. If Owens can make it work, he’d be the first in his fam­ily to travel in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Al­though the high tu­ition leaves many fam­il­ies dis­cour­aged, Boone said, her de­sire to see her son suc­ceed only made her work harder to raise the money, while also seek­ing out any op­por­tun­ity to raise more funds for her son’s trip.

Boone and her son have been work­ing to­geth­er on fund-rais­ing pro­jects by selling vari­ous goods and try­ing to cre­ate aware­ness of the fam­ily’s situ­ation.

The pair had tried nearly everything, from selling homemade chocol­ates on Valentine’s Day to homemade plat­ters of chick­en, yams and bread, and ask­ing for church con­tri­bu­tions.

The fam­ily has raised some money to­ward their goal. But Owens is still a long way from reach­ing it.

ldquo;On a good night, I sell the plat­ters for nine dol­lars and make $150,” Boone said. “But some­times I make $38. There’s only so much I can do. We really don’t have a lot of ideas, though, be­cause I don’t get around much.”

To achieve more wide­spread aware­ness, Owens has taken to the In­ter­net and has star­ted a Peer­back­ers.com ac­count to ex­plain his pre­dic­a­ment and hope­fully gath­er some dona­tions in ex­change for a gift or post­card from his jour­ney abroad.

Boone said the reas­on her son de­serves this trip is simple — all chil­dren de­serve an op­por­tun­ity like this.

“Kids need a chance,” she said. “Us, as par­ents, we don’t have it to al­ways give them the chances they need … I said that if I could have made the money for Milton, I would have donated it to an­oth­er child that wanted to go, too. Some­times (chil­dren) don’t have the sup­port of par­ents or people, peri­od.”

Boone wants her son to get much more out of the trip than just see­ing the sights. She thinks he’s at an age to learn from what he sees abroad, and she hopes it will make him ap­pre­ci­ate what he has.

Al­though Boone is op­tim­ist­ic, she ac­know­ledges that she may not be suc­cess­ful in rais­ing the money in time.

“I want to make the money,” she said. “But if we can’t, it’s not be­cause we didn’t try. We’re not go­ing to stop.

Next year, when they call and say we have the op­por­tun­ity to go again, then we’ll have $2,000 to start off with that we fund-raised this year.”

Re­gard­less of when Owens makes the trip abroad, Boone holds high hopes for his fu­ture.

She would like to see her son in col­lege and con­tin­ue to be suc­cess­ful in everything he does.

“I hope it in­spires him to do good,” she said. “I don’t want him to just see what’s over there. What good is that? I want him to learn something.”

Milton agreed.

ldquo;I want to learn that there’s more than just Sev­enth (Street) and Al­legheny (Av­en­ue) to the world,” he said. “The world is a whole dif­fer­ent place.” ••

For more in­form­a­tion on Milton Owens and his goal, check out his fun­drais­ing page at ht­tp://peer­back­ers.com/pro­jects/fin­an­cing-france-the-70-day-chal­lenge

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