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.”
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