Operation International a Success!

IMG_96643-D at Whirlpoolmixing at WhirlpoolIMG_0013by Sonya Bernard-Hollins, founder
Merze Tate Explorers

Photos copyright protected-Merze Tate Explorers

After months of planning, fund raising, and a few unexpected twists and turns, the 2016 Travel Writers Academy was a success! The women of Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, Michigan, provided us with a tailor-made two-day hands-on experience that inspired the girls in so many ways. No only did they meet most of the female VP’s of Whirlpool, their Smoothie Challenge pitches were judged by a panel which included Marc Bitzer, president and chief operating officer,  and Joe Liotine, president of Whirlpool North America! The girls were given exclusive tours of the 3-D printing lab, test kitchen, and appliance durability test areas.



Our week of adventure included interviews with other amazing women who shared of their talents and passion for their careers and travel. College IMG_9986students gave interactive presentations that shared of their international travels, language, and cultural aspects they have learned along the way.

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As we headed East in Michigan, we took a tour of the Motown Museum! We felt the vibes of Berry Gordy as one of our students crooned a pop hit under the echo-chamber-like hole in the ceiling that was the secret to the Motown sound. To top off the experience, the girls were surprised by a visit from Teresa Brown, the chief operating officer of the Motown Museum! The girls interviewed her, along with Motown’s social media and public relations coordinator Shanel Adams.




All  work and no play could make the Explorers dull girls. So, to break up the work between studying our geography and writing, we  experienced a cruise along the Detroit river on the Detroit Princess. The girls danced the night away, winning limbo and other dance contests!


Our trip concluded with the finale…a trip to Niagara Falls! As they experienced the boarder patrol and currency exchange lessons of international travel, they marveled in the mist of the falls during a Journey Behind the Falls experience of the view behind the falls, and   road on the Hornblower Niagara Cruise boat toward the falls…ponchos and all! Niagara Falls is one of the 20 Places Around the World the Explorers are challenged to visit during their lifetime.


The Merze Tate Explorers provides an opportunity for girls to not only see the world, but meet amazing women who can inspire them along the way. Look for more gallery photos of our trips to be uploaded soon!

And, thanks to all those who contributed through our GoFundMe account, personal contributions, and fundraising efforts that allowed this experience to be one our girls will remember for a lifetime!