As Greg Teich ’07 would tell you, some ideas are too crazy to ignore. When the announcement for the “All-You-Can-Jet” pass promotion from JetBlue Airways reached his inbox, he simply purchased a plane ticket, quit his job and spent the next 30 days traversing the continent to promote charity programs in 30 different cities.
“I wanted to show everybody that, in 12 to 18 hours, I can find a nonprofit that’s doing good things for this community,” Teich said. “And I’ll prove it by going to 30 cities and just finding them.”
The airline’s offer reached Teich during a period of job dissatisfaction. Having completed his two-year commitment with Teach For America in Hawaii, he was reluctant to continue his teaching career at the same school because he felt it offered him few opportunities for personal growth and was plagued by administrative problems. The $600 ticket, which offered unlimited travel around the United States and the Caribbean between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8, seemed like the perfect way to make a fresh start. Seventeen days after purchasing the pass and submitting his two weeks notice he was in Seattle, his first city.
Like so many students at the College of William and Mary, Teich devoted time and energy to community service organizations during his four years on campus. He decided to incorporate his passion for outreach during his month of travel.
“I have a really idealistic and charitable mission, but I don’t want to come off as someone who thinks they’re a saint,” Teich said. “I wanted to see these places and play tourist. But I thought it’s kind of selfish if I do this just to have fun.”
To showcase the work small nonprofit organizations are doing and to inspire people to improve their local communities, Teich chose a charity organization to visit in each city and showcased them on his blog, at 30cities30days.blogspot.com. He didn’t do any research on the non-profits prior to landing in each city because he wanted to prove that getting involved was so easy that any newcomer could locate an appropriate venue for service and participate in less than a day.
“Almost always I hit the ground and found them because that was sort of the point,” Teich said. “‘I [had] 24 hours to find people doing great things.”
Teich relied on fellow alumni of the College for transportation and lodging during his travels, and made sure his hectic schedule allowed him to be in Washington, D.C. for the wedding of two alumni friends he set up during their time at the College. Matt Taylor ’08, who Teich visited during his stay in New Orleans, said that Teich’s trip was in keeping with his character.
“Greg was spunky,” Taylor said. “He was always really quick to jump on any opportunity to help people out. He was really outgoing and really overcommitted to the College.”
Teich planned his itinerary as he went, booking handfuls of plane tickets at a time a few cities in advance. Among his favorite cities were Seattle, Washington, New Orleans, Louisiana and San Juan in Puerto Rico.
In each city, the type of community service organizations varied greatly. Splore, a nonprofit in Salt Lake City, Utah that makes outdoor activities accessible to people with special needs, ranked among his favorite charities. According to splore.org, the group specializes in promoting empowering experiences in the outdoors through affordable, customized and inclusive recreation and education programs for people of all abilities. Splore started over 30 year ago and has offered services to over 40,000 disabled individuals such as rock-climbing and rafting that are commonly inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Teich sought organizations that impact communities on a local level that was looking for. And after finding an organization within 24 hours in a new city, he aimed to prove how easy it is to get involved.
Visitors to Teich’s blog can peruse his wryly written travelogue entries, in which he offers advice about activities in each city and exposes their quirks. He describes Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, as “Orlando for richer people,” and New Orleans, as “anarchy at its best.” Visitors can donate to any of the charities he features; so far he has raised over $700 and will be accepting donations through Nov. 20.
Though he valued community service before coming to the College, Teich feels that his years on campus cultivated his present commitment to serving others.
“The College of William and Mary is hugely influential to everyone who goes to it,” he said. “Whether they like it or not. You spend too much time there for it not to. It fosters the environment where you have to go above and beyond to do what you are passionate about, and you can’t expect that much praise for it because tomorrow someone is going to try to do it a little better.”
Dr. Andrew D. Stelljes, director of Community Engagement at the College, worked with Teich on a Hurricane Katrina relief project and agrees with his assessment of community service on campus.
“Many William and Mary students embark on personal, career and intellectual journeys into communities or settings where they witness injustice, poverty, and insufficient health care firsthand,” Stelljes said. “It is in these moments alongside community members, their peers and their faculty that they are making meaning of their life and their education at William and Mary. They are finding purpose.”
With his “All-You-Can-Jet” pass expired and his last city review posted, Teich said he has returned to his career teaching special education, this time in Denver, Colo. Though his transcontinental method of reaching out was elaborate, his advice for how others should serve their communities is simple.
“My motto to everyone is ‘do something’,” he said. “That’s what I do; it’s that simple.”