Teen has travel bug, ticket to ride
Last year Monroe resident Hila Shooter, 17, raised $12,500 so she could achieve her dream to go on a wilderness learning program in Ecuador. Now the resourceful teen wants to help other young people do the same, with a little less hassle.
Shooter, a home-schooled high school senior who will graduate in June, spent about 10 months raising the funds she needed to go on a program with Marlow, N.H.-based Kroka Expeditions from September to December 2011. The money she raised was in addition to a $4,000 scholarship she received from Kroka.
The fund-raising effort was a full-time occupation for her, Shooter said, calling on her versatility, creativity and perseverance. She wrote a letter to all her friends and family to ask for their support; held fund-raising events such as an Ecuadorian dinner, a snowshoeing pledge walk, and an English sports day (with events like an egg-and-spoon race and a three-legged race), which was followed by an English cream tea; did odd jobs like yard work and walking dogs; made and sold her own greeting cards; and busked on the streets of Belfast with her fiddle.
Throughout the months she was raising the money for her trip, Shooter said, her mother, Flic Shooter, was "super-helpful and supportive the whole way." Besides her mom, she got moral support from a friend, Clayton Clemetson, who was also raising funds to attend the Kroka program when she was.
In addition to learning what she had to offer that people would pay for, the experience taught Shooter the importance of perseverance. When she first began fund-raising, she said she really didn't believe she could raise as much as she needed. Sometimes, when she felt most doubtful about whether she'd ever raise enough, she thought to herself "I don't even want to go to Ecuador!" she said. But she kept at it, despite her doubts, because, "I just wanted to go so badly." After she had raised about half of what she needed, she began to believe she could make her goal.
The trip itself was educational on a number of levels, Shooter said. Her group was based at a farm in the Andes; since the leaders were Ecuadorian, all the students (who were mostly from New England) had to learn Spanish. From their base at the farm, the group took trips into the countryside for hiking, biking and rafting. They spent some nights in local villages, staying with families there and offering their labor in payment for hospitality.
On the second phase of the expedition, the group set out from the farm and trekked to a glacier-capped volcano. This trip lasted a few weeks, Shooter said. The experience was "a lot of hard work," she said, adding that she learned about herself and about living in close quarters in a tight-knit community.
Shooter was assigned to be the food manager for the group, planning meals and distributing food. Other students had jobs such as fire manager, blogger, photographer and kitchen manager, she said.
After she got back, Kroka referred other students to Shooter for advice on how to raise money to attend the program. She was happy to help, she said, but her parents suggested she write a booklet about what she did so she wouldn't have to keep sending out the same email.
"I wanted to make it easier for kids to do this sort of thing, because it's not easy, but it's definitely doable," Shooter explained. And so "Ticket to Ride: How Teens Can Fundraise to Realize Our Dreams" was born. And along with it, Shooter now has a campaign on Kickstarter.com to raise the $3,500 she needs to print the booklet. In addition to printing, she will also have expenses for cover design, typesetting and mailing booklets as a reward to Kickstarter supporters. She said she is still working on how to get the booklet distributed.
Following her graduation in June, Shooter plans to take a sailing semester with Ocean Classroom based in Boothbay Harbor, and then she will take a year off from formal schooling to travel. And she's setting her sights high: one place she'd like to see is the Himalayas.