April Lawson: Travel Access Grant Recipient

Continuing on with our weekly winners we would like to introduce and congratulate April Lawson, recipient of TAP grant and member of cohort 1!

April Lawson

I spend my days dreaming; I spend my nights living my dreams. Who is April T. Lawson, you ask? Well, I’m still on the journey of figuring that out myself. What I do know about me thus far, is that I’m the quirky kid who listens to music of which no one has ever heard. I’m the free spirit at whom no one bats an eye when they hear I’ve changed my major for the seventh time or that I’m going to China to teach English for a year (stay tuned there) !. I’m the one that’s “always doing something weird” and unusual as any of my friends would tell you.

I was born in Washington, D.C., raised on a multifamily farmland in South Carolina, and have lived amongst nearly every east coast state. For most people, living so many different places would generate a longing for stability. For me, however, the constant change continued to feed my desire to always be on the move. My brain has trouble grasping the concept of “later” or “in the future.” No, I’m ready RIGHT NOW. I’ve seen too many times that if you put something off, it never happens. Missed

opportunities eat at me, and I’ve too many resources and too much ambition to let another obstacle refrain me.

My mind is everywhere at once — always. I aspire to become a business owner, food inspector, sommelier, social worker, interior designer, amazing mother, professional survivalist and wilderness expert, physical therapist, park ranger, and disaster relief worker — just to name a few. Many of these professions I’ve already embarked upon, and I have the rest of my life to better my skills in these areas. But one’s hometown, home country, can only biasly train the mind in how to become these characters.

This is why travel is essential to me. It’ll sculpt who I dream of becoming without the borders of my comfort zone. How can one properly critique wine without having plucked a Bordeaux in France ? How can one understand the art of design and flow without having experienced the heart of Feng Shui in China ? How can one truly obtain the title of survivalist without encountering Bear Grylls (one of my idols) in the unforgiving terrains of the Sumatra jungle ? Sure, there are a plethora of foods, designers, dangerous conditions, and lessons to be learned right at home, but if you’re truly for improving yourself and being open-minded, there’s no better teacher than the lifestyles and knowledge of other worlds beyond your own.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University in December 2015. During my time in school, I participated in several study abroad courses and became addicted to jet lag and free breakfast. I didn’t exactly decide to take so much time off before pursuing my masters; it just sort of happened. Oh well. C’est la vie. In my search for scholarships and grants to help get back at the books, I stumbled upon “Travel Access Project.” I’d considered a gap year, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go — FIRST. I don’t know what I want to do besides everything ! I’m a paradox in the sense that I don’t like to follow directions (which makes me a horrible baker in case you were wondering) and yet sometimes I wish someone would tell me what my next move should be !

Anywho, whilst typing and watching the Travel Channel. I totally had an epiphany: all you almost ever see are white people on these shows ! No, I’m not racist; don’t go there ! Why is there never ever a significant number of black people in these other countries ?! And that’s when I deleted my essay. I’m incredibly lucky to have been born healthy and into a moderately wealthy family. If I were going to win money, I wanted to dedicate it to those who maybe didn’t get as lucky as I. I’d like to think that, if you don’t like the cards you were dealt, reshuffle the deck. Well, life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes it takes serendipity, divine intervention even, to get where you want to be. My new vision became one for black girls to be the faces

seen on the Travel Channel. Winning this grant money allows for me to start up a program, a travel club, where black girls age 16 and up can obtain their passports and join me on my travels across the country and around the world. I plan to visit eateries, museums, go camping, and host seminars of strong, successful, black female presences who represent everything it means to be well rounded individuals and global citizens.

I’ve realized the only thing I despise more than mosquitoes is paying bills. Although avoiding the latter is pretty much inevitable, when one has a weekend trip or some new adventure to look forward to, it makes those in between, adulting times, a little easier to manage. Sometimes all you need is something to look forward to, and obtaining a passport is that one key to opening so many doors leading to opportunities you never thought you’d encounter. It’s a book that you get to fill with your own stories and adventures. It’s one thing to read books and watch the traveling networks, but when you have the means to actually go there, you just gotta !

Shortly following my application for tap, I was presented with the opportunity to take a teaching position in Ürümqi, China. Well, guess what, I’ve had my passport, and I’m preparing to take off October 31st ! Being the spontaneous, go-getter that I am, It’s imperative that I be ready for any and everything. And I want other black girls empowered to take the reigns of any opportunity that presents itself at any given time. This is why I’m SO grateful to pursue this project, and I look forward to seeing more beautiful black faces, maybe even my own, on the Travel Channel !

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