Shea Kerry will gladly tell you how the unique zipper pouches she creates are helping her with two of her favorite interests — science and travel.
Kerry, 18, of Carver, leaves Sunday to begin an eight-month adventure that will take her to Senegal, where she will live with a host family. She’ll teach English, learn the tribal Wolof language and work with an effort to have more females in tailor shops.
“Usually they don’t have women as tailors,” said Kerry, a 2019 graduate from Chanhassen High School. “It is part of a women’s empowerment effort.”
Kerry, twice during high school, went to Costa Rica for research projects via Seeds of Change, a nonprofit designed to enhance bioscience education for high school students.
This time, her travels and work are through Global Citizen Year, which works with students transitioning between the end of high school and start of college. The immersion program includes communities in India, Brazil, Ecuador and Senegal.
The “fellows” live with local families and “work as apprentices supporting efforts in education, health and the environment,” according to the program’s website, gaining problem-solving experiences.
“This adventure will push me,” said Kerry. “I will have a lot of ups and downs; kind of like life.”
Kerry is anxious to immerse herself in the new culture, saying she’s not concerned she might not have internet access for a week or even a month at a time.
“I love volunteering and seeing people smile,” she said. “I love problem solving. Finding solutions has inspired me down this path.”
The program costs $32,500, with financial aid and scholarships available. Half of the fellows receive partial scholarships while 30 percent receive full scholarships.
Kerry, as her first leadership challenge, has been asked to raise $2,500 for the scholarship fund. She’s raised $1,000 and is hoping her pencil pouches business — Sheabella Designs — vaults her to her goal.
Kerry, daughter of Rob and Deb Kerry, started making the pouches several years ago for donations to school supply drives, but they became so popular that people asked to buy them.
Kerry uses upholstery material scraps that businesses were discarding to make the pouches. She learned most of her sewing skills, including adding the zippers, from her grandmother in Canada.
Creating the pouches, as well as marketing them, has improved her business and leadership skills, Kerry said.
“I’m going to bring some along to Senegal. That way, I can show them what I make at home and they can show me what they make,” she said. “I am so looking forward to all of this!”
Kerry will be studying biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, where she will be on academic scholarship, after her Senegal experience.