Michaela Easterday isn't spending her summer break veging in front of the TV.
She's packing her bags for a trip to South Korea -- and raising the money to pay for it.
She's not alone. Other Mid-Columbia teens are taking academic or service trips this summer to destinations like Fiji and Jamaica. And a group of eighth-graders from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Kennewick is raising money for camp on Orcas Island this fall.
Despite the struggling economy, students and parents say community members have pitched in to help with donations.
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People these days are trying to be frugal, but "(they're) still willing to give," Michaela said.
The 15-year-old, who'll be a junior this fall at Connell High, is headed to South Korea through the Camp Fulbright junior internship program. She'll take Korean language classes and get a taste of the culture. She leaves Monday and will return in mid-August.
Michaela said she's looking forward to building friendships with people she meets.
"People are really fascinating to me. When I grow up I want to travel. I'm really interested in other cultures, world policies. I want to know how people my age (live) in all different countries. Not just how we're different, but how we're alike," she said.
The experience isn't free. Michaela has to pay for her own airfare, so she's done yard work for neighbors and sent out letters seeking support. To help with her trip, call 509-269-4577, e-mail michaela firstname.lastname@example.org or send checks to 51 Bellflower Road, Mesa, 99343.
Some other teens also will be getting new stamps on their passports in the next few weeks.
Derek Berkey of Richland is heading to Fiji on a service trip through a group affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He'll help build a septic tank in a small community there. He's also been collecting sports gear to share with the kids he meets.
He expects to have fun on the trip and also gain new perspective.
"I'm going to learn how much I actually have," he said. "(I'm going to meet) other people who don't have anything. If I can help them, that'll be great."
Derek, 16, an incoming junior at Richland High, leaves for Fiji this week. He's been able to raise all the money he needs for the trip by sending out letters and taking on yard work and other jobs, he said.
It isn't always easy to collect charitable donations during difficult economic times. During a recession, charitable giving drops an average of 1 percent, according to The Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University.
But people do still give.
A group from Columbia Community Church in Richland is heading to Jamaica later this month to help at a health clinic and do other work in the community. The group has held fundraising breakfasts, sought sponsorships from businesses and taken on tasks such as delivering phone books.
Craig Galat, the church's missions coordinator, said their fundraising has been well-received. His teenage son, Zach, is one of the two dozen teens and adults going on the trip.
Galat said traveling to places where there's great need -- inside and outside the U.S. -- can be a powerful learning experience and provide inspiration to lead a life of service.
"It takes sometimes just extending a hand, learning to be more gracious in receiving the world," Galat said.
A group of students from St. Joseph's School is planning an excursion in September that won't take them too far from home. The eighth-grade class goes to Orcas Island each year, a trip that helps the kids bond and sets the tone for the year.
"It's a team-building experience," said student Janet Kruschke, 14.
The teen and her classmates held a car wash Saturday to help with costs. They sold tickets in advance and already had raised well over $1,000 by about 1 p.m.
"Business has been steady," said Dane Pedersen, 13, as more cars lined up, waiting to be cleaned.