This is an article from the spring 2018 issue of LSA Magazine. Read more stories from the magazine.
As everyone who has one knows, to get a passport you have to follow a bunch of fussy steps. First, you need a picture that shows you with a neutral expression and both of your eyes open. Then you have to complete the application, which is long, and photocopy both sides of your official ID. You also have to get your hands on your original birth certificate and figure out what getting your passport will cost. And then you get to go to the post office and wait to send the whole kit and caboodle off.
Starting in fall 2018, the LSA Passport Scholarship Program will streamline this process for all first-year, Pell Grant–eligible LSA students—and pay for the passports, too. First, $195 is deposited in their accounts, which the students use to get a money order. Then the students bring it, a completed passport application, and their birth certificate to Weiser Hall, where they also get their photos taken. There, they sit down with a U.S. passport officer who answers all their questions, checks over the application, and sends it off to be processed.
The program not only removes the financial barrier, says Katherine Weathers, LSA scholarship senior manager, it works to remove the psychological barriers, also. Trusting is the hardest part of the process, Weathers says. Some students wonder if the program is real. Many students ask her if they’ll really get their birth certificates back. But a few weeks later, when the passports arrive, the students are ready and eager to talk about filling them with stamps.
This summer a student from Bark River, Michigan, is planning to go to the European Union Summer Program in Amsterdam. A student from Flint who dreams of joining Doctors Without Borders is on her way to Vietnam. And hundreds of other LSA students who now have new passports, too, are thinking about places they might go.
And for students who have never been out of the country—and who may have wondered if they would ever get a chance to go—that $195 donation really goes a long way.