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At CAS Trips, we endeavor to create lasting and impactful relationships with the schools, teachers, and students we work with. The IB community is full of brilliant, creative, and motivated individuals, and it is our pleasure to benefit from their insight and collaboration as we continue to evolve as an organization. It is especially rewarding when a former student participant reaches out to work with us as they embark on their university career following graduation from the IB program. 

That is why we are thrilled to feature a guest post from one of our summer interns, Hannah Tabor. Hannah is a former IB student and current Ph.D. student in Higher Education Administration at the University of Florida. Here she details her experience of attending an IB World Student Conference that would ultimately change the trajectory of her life and education, what it means to be an everyday hero, and why she has chosen to spend her summer working with CAS Trips. We are thrilled to have her as part of our team and look forward to watching her continue to excel during this exciting chapter of her life. 

Why CAS Trips?

By Hannah Tabor 

I want to share my experiences with the IB World Student Conferences (now CAS Trips) and how they impacted my life. In the Summer of 2013, I was fifteen years old, and I thought conferences were just for adults. My mom showed me a website describing the IB World Student Conferences and asked if I wanted to attend. My answer? An immediate yes. I was told I would get to meet IB students from all around the world, learn about social justice, and spend a week at a beautiful university in North Carolina. Feeling very professional attending a conference at a young age, I packed a suitcase and was eager to learn. After walking into the dorms, meeting my roommate for the week, and waving goodbye to my mom as she drove off, I had no idea just how life-changing that week would be.

Each morning, all of the students met in a large auditorium to listen to a keynote speaker. Following the keynote, we met our Global Action Team of about 15 students in a small classroom. The GAT group format allowed us to meet like-minded teenagers from around the world; my group had students from Nepal, Jordan, Uganda, and Pakistan. We were taking similar classes in school through the IB curriculum, so we bonded over our paralleled high school experiences as students. Our GAT Leader led group discussions where we learned from each other, shared ideas, and explored social justice issues. 

Hannah and friends, Summer, 2014 in Montreal

In the afternoon, we would have either another speaker session or more group sessions.

Each evening, we went on an excursion or had a social event on campus; a baseball game, the civil rights museum, a dance party, and a talent show.

My week at the IB World Student Conference had a significant impact on my life trajectory. At fifteen, I knew I wanted to help people somehow, though I had no idea which career path, or college major, I should choose when I turned eighteen. I had several experiences at this conference that sharpened my vision for the future and broadened my worldview. 

Midway through the conference week, we watched a documentary about Darryl Hunt, a Black man wrongfully accused of rape and murder who was exonerated by the Innocence Project after spending 19 years in prison. We were all moved and angered by the documentary. Then, as we were whispering in the auditorium about what we had watched, Darryl Hunt himself and his lawyer walked in. 

We then had the opportunity to hear them speak and ask questions. This experience is indescribable; the way we felt, the way we were moved, and the way we were inspired that day is something we all will remember forever. We especially remembered those

feelings when we reconnected in our Facebook group three years later upon learning that Darryl Hunt had committed suicide. His death impacted all of us and reminded us of the importance of working to improve issues of social justice.

Darryl Hunt and his Lawyer speaking at the 2013 conference

The following morning of the conference, we shuffled into the same auditorium with our hearts

still heavy but full of fire. Dr. James Morone of Brown University delivered an uplifting and inspiring speech about everyday heroes—a simple yet impactful concept (I’ll come back to this). 

Throughout the week in my GAT group, we discussed several social justice topics and how injustices impacted our communities across the globe. The most profound moment to me was when we all collaborated to create a solution to the social injustices we learned about all week. My friends from Nepal, Jordan, Uganda, Pakistan, and the US all came to an easy consensus that access to quality education was the foundational key to solving social justice issues. 

Hannah and her former chaperone, Kim, spending a day together in Amsterdam before the 2018 conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

To each have vastly different life experiences, yet all come to the same conclusion was incredible. A lightbulb clicked on for me at the moment: I wanted to dedicate my life to improving education. How exactly? I wasn’t yet sure.

I attended the conference again the following year, and then in 2018, I applied to be a chaperone and student leader since I could no longer participate as a student. I’ve met up with several of the friends I made when I vacationed in their hometown or country, and one of the conference alumni asked me to be a guest speaker on his podcast. I sought these opportunities because while I still wasn’t sure of an exact career path, I did know one thing: the IB World Student Conferences were hubs for learning and sparking ideas. In 2018, I was getting my master’s degree in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies while applying to Ph.D. programs. Higher Education Administration stood out to me because I am interested in improving college access for minoritized high school seniors. 

Hannah as a chaperone in 2018

One of my letters of recommendation was from a director of the conference, and my entrance essay focused on the concepts I learned from Dr. James Morone (I told you I’d get back to this). Most of the students in attendance, including myself, thought BIG. We wanted to change the world, and we believed we could.

Dr. Morone made our lofty goals of changing the world tangible by introducing us to the concept of the everyday hero. Essentially, an everyday hero is someone who works daily in small yet impactful ways to improve something, whether it is helping one person, volunteering, or even developing a CAS project.

That’s right—as high school students, we couldn’t quite change the world yet, but we did have the opportunity through our CAS project to be an everyday hero. We gained the valuable insight that while thinking big and striving to change the world is important, sometimes aiming to change your school or your community is a crucial first step in making larger-scale change.

I wasn’t the only one impacted so profoundly by these conferences. When IB World announced the discontinuation of the conferences, I, along with some alumni friends, took to Facebook to garner signatures to petition. We collectively agreed that the conferences were so impactful that it would be a disservice to quite literally the entire world if students no longer had the opportunity to attend. From our petition came CAS Trips, a new name, and a fresh face for the conferences. 

CAS Trips is more accessible now, with virtual conferences, online resources, workshops, and physical conferences in the works. So why CAS Trips? CAS Trips provides students with the tools and knowledge to be worldly thinkers, gives students a network of incredible friends and colleagues from around the world, and affords students an experience that sharpens and strengthens foundational values.