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Eighth-Grader Launches Unique Fundraising Campaign for Turkey Trip

by on July 23, 2014 6:30 AM

Thanks to a unique fundraising campaign, a State College eighth-grader will study in Turkey next month.

Nate Gray, 14, a student at Young Scholars of Central PA Charter School, was selected by his teacher, Turan Balik, to participate in an intensive language camp in August.

The focus of the charter school is on international studies, where students learn languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Turkish and Spanish well before that of other schools.

“Turkish language is my favorite,” Nate says. “Mr. B is one of my favorite teachers because he helps me understand both the language and the culture of Turkey. His class has inspired me to visit Turkey.”

The only problem? The steep cost that comes with a trip like this, including airfare and tuition.

Nate did yard work through the summer and raised about $1,000 on his own. That still left him about $2,300 short of what he needed, says his father, Fran Gray, of State College.

After seeing a story about a man who reportedly raised more than $60,000 to make a potato salad, the Gray family decided to go online and launch a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is a website that helps people raise money for all sorts of projects.

The family’s goal is to raise $2,300 by 11:59 p.m. Thursday. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, this milestone has been reached, with Nate raising a grand total of $2,305.

"This has been a humbling experience," says Nate's mother, Jennifer Gray. "It was inspirational to have people from all over the world offer their support for this educational enrichment. We are thrilled as we know this experience will impact the way Nate views and interacts with the world. A huge thank you to everyone who supported us."

To Fran Gray, Kickstarter seemed like the best way to reach out to a large number of people. Traditional methods could have been used to reach friends and family but many more people can see the campaign through Kickstarter. The page has been viewed in Lebanon, Ireland and Germany, he says.

"Kickstarter gives the chance to reach out to people who we would never reach otherwise," Fran Gray says. "It allows people a chance to get involved in the experience and us to make the last piece of money for the trip."

To those who donate, Nate plans to send photos from Turkey and update his blog with stories from the trip.

"I want to share my experiences with others so young people can be encouraged to understand the value of language and cultural learning," Nate says.

Over the course of the 17-day-trip, Nate will spend his mornings and early afternoons studying the Turkish language with 50 other students from across the country. The group will then have activities, such as tours of the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar, throughout the city of Istanbul to practice speaking Turkish.

By the end of the trip, Nate should be nearly fluent. That will come from six hours of studies for three weeks as well as hands-on learning with natives of Turkey. He will have to communicate in Turkish to buy food and souvenirs, as well as navigate his way around the city.

Nate has already completed one year of Turkish in his school. He will return in the fall for another year of the language, where he will most likely be ahead of his classmates due to the intensive summer camp.

For more information and to donate to Nate's Kickstarter campaign, click HERE.

This story has been edited since first posted it to reflect the status of the Kickstarter campaign. Nate achieved his goal Wednesday morning by raising $2,300, ahead of his 11:59 p.m. Thursday deadline.

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Jessica Tully recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in journalism and political science. She is a frequent contributor to and has also reported for USA TODAY, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Onward State and The Daily Collegian.
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