I sat in the Belo Horizonte airport and enjoyed the last few moments before I boarded the flight. I soaked up every moment of this great city. As one by one my fellow passengers boarded I knew it was time to go. I boarded the plane and watched Minas Gerais fade away in the distance.
The trip to Minas and our visit to Colegio Tiradentes was incredible, but in reality the journey that led our small party to BH (as trendy people call it) had started years before. In 2017, another boarding school was falling apart. Beset by financial issues and the end of their single largest donors checks each year, they had closed abruptly and left an entire community in a lurch. While we offered a lifeline and special benefits to their students, the most important question was asked by the NMMI Chief of Staff, “Are there any people there that we need”? Immediately my mind remembered the lady who sat at ICEF Toronto from a school that was no where near the quality of New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) that I was representing, yet she had agent after agent lined up to talk to her. It was effortless. While I stumbled through a few presentations that I had set up as a rookie with other rookies, she had meeting after meeting with the real players in the industry. After the event we said our goodbyes and went our own ways, but she was the first person on the list for a skillset we needed. I e-mailed, then called and finally after she had prioritized her students and families who were in crises she called back.
Over the subsequent five years, Cristhina built on success after success and more connections that we could ever imagine to recruit international cadets for NMMI. The number of countries represented in the student body went from 20 to 34. The additional revenue from international tuition helped the school to meet full need for all New Mexico residents and NMMI cadets benefited from the exposure to other cadets from around the world. In all of these events, the path eventually led to the meeting with a teacher from a Brazilian military school. In the first meeting, cards were exchanged and a glimmer of what could be likely danced in their minds.
For many years study abroad programs have mainly been limited to those who could somehow afford to make the journey. For both of our schools, we have very wealthy families who can afford tuition and study abroad mixed with students who have no ability to pay. The education at these outstanding institutions is free for these students, but they are limited from some of the opportunities that other cadets can enjoy. The idea came about, what if we could exchange cadets between the schools and make the experience either very affordable or free with a selection process that did not take into account a cadet’s ability to pay. This idea was so groundbreaking for both schools that the conversation heated up quickly. There were so many ideas, thoughts of what could be, but the whole plan hung in the balance waiting to see if it could be realized.
Part II will be released on May 12, 2022. Read it here!